Illustration by Madison Hoiby
Illustration by Madison Hoiby

The Performance of Feminism

By Jude De Luna

Are you a good person? How about you prove it by reposting pretty pastel-colored infographics on your Instagram story?

Surface-level allyship is a glaring issue that sprouted after the George Floyd protests in 2020. People rushed to do the bare minimum and post black squares to show their support, not really contributing to the actual movement at hand. This has also long been a problem in feminism. Performative white feminism, propagated by media such as Buzzfeed, has plagued the feminist movement, ultimately steering the conversation away from intersectionality and treating such issues as a trending topic.

In the mid 2010s, large media company Buzzfeed started to post thought-provoking “woke” videos on Youtube. Certain videos of theirs include “Women Try Manspreading for a Week,” “36 Questions for Men,” and “9 Comebacks Feminists Would Be Proud Of.” These videos surely tried to put a spotlight on what vexes women, but the meaning twisted into the notions of “Men ruin everything” and “Men’s existence is terrible.” It also culminated into a new wave of “white feminism.” The movement shifted to focus on men and white women’s feelings rather than advocating for women's rights and equality between all genders overall. Buzzfeed never made the same amount of content or put in the effort about intersectional issues, leaving people such as women of color behind and isolated. One of Buzzfeed’s most controversial videos was titled “Women Paint with Their Period Blood.” This extremely performative video got its expected backlash, but the issue remained that white solutions such as this were put at the forefront instead of actual ways to contribute to the movement.

Due to these empty actions and toxic ideas promoted by Buzzfeed, white feminism permeated society. Why should we be focusing on manspreading when there are more pressing issues at hand? Where is the same energy for problems such as trans women’s health and safety, bias in the medical field against black women, or pay inequality between white women and women of color? This also bleeds into the performative posting. Infographics posted on people’s stories echoed the same ideas reminiscent of Buzzfeed’s videos. Most of these infographics of white feminism promote “girlboss” solutions, watering down intersectional issues to just diversity and inclusion.

Posting about these issues on Instagram and other social media sites has also served to trivialize the problem. There is information spread around about intersectional issues, but people stop posting about it when these issues fade away from the spotlight, even though that is not the reality of the world. Problems do not just disappear when they are not trending anymore. It must be an ongoing conversation, not a temporary pretty story that is only up for 24 hours at a time. It is also a problem that people can tap through five posts in under thirty seconds. Social media is fast, people scroll away as soon as they are bored. Of course, these types of posts do spread awareness, but it overall does nothing to help when there are no resources or citations provided. There are also rarely any tangible actions attached to the simple post. At this point, posting such infographics only points to virtue signaling.

In order to dismantle white feminism and to actively promote intersectionality, people must put in the work. Instead of blindly reposting pretty graphics that echo empty words such as “☆ EMPOWER WOMEN ☆” or “BE A GIRLBOSS!”, go beyond temporary stories that a person can easily swipe through. A good start to removing that internalized white feminism is a powerful book titled “White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminsim Betrays Women of Color” by Ruby Hamad. The book explores the history of white women’s role in white supremacy and why we must confront it to further promote equality for all. Additionally, make space to listen to those around you and acknowledge the privilege you may have. Learn how you can truly help your community and actually dedicate your time to places such as women’s shelters in your area or your local Planned Parenthood. Putting on a show on social media that you are a good person does not mean you’re a good person. Act on it, and truly enact change.