Social justice is becoming more prevalent on social media. As it does so, it’s easy to think the only place for effective activism is on the internet.
But while everyone’s tweeting, blogging or signing Change.org petitions, ‘real’ activism (as opposed to so-called ‘armchair’ activism) is still happening. Indeed, for many, activism is still at its most powerful when it involves picket lines and posters.
Take, for instance, the anti-austerity protests that occurred after the General Election. Following Labour’s defeat, the Left began to think that maybe tweeting to each other and preaching to the choir wasn’t the best way to change things.
Instead, they decided it was time to take to the streets to try and make the next five years more liveable for the poor, underprivileged, and oppressed. Much of this drive and activism led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader
It’s easy to see why on the street protests are considered the ‘proper’ form of activism. They are dramatic, with visual representations of the voiceless and frustrated. We see them enact real change in a way that a well circulated blog post can never do.
However, before you think its fine to attack those who sit at home and do nothing but tweet, blog, or maybe hand out pamphlets, consider this: not everybody can attend a protest.
People with anxiety (4.7 per cent of the population has anxiety problems) may struggle with the large crowds present at popular protests. Even getting to the protest, using public transport, is a step too far for many people who suffer from panic attacks and other forms of anxiety disorder.
Similarly, physically disabled people – whether they are in a wheelchair, or suffer from a chronic disorder which makes many everyday tasks painful, exhausting and difficult – may be unable to express their opposition in person. Not only can protests be physically inaccessible, but the act of protesting may bring on severe symptoms, and wipe out an individual for days after.
In short, sometimes, as much as someone might care about an issue that’s being protested, actually attending a protest isn’t possible for some people. These citizens don’t have the luxury of being able to engage as fully as they would like. Often, they have to put their own needs and wellbeing first.
Now, more than ever, is the time to make events, campaigns and protests accessible. Two-thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax, for instance, are disabled. Similarly, 83 per cent of women who have been disabled since childhood have experienced sexual abuse. The issues that the Left and the liberals are most eager to fight – sexual abuse, austerity, gentrification, homelessness, health and more – are all issues that affect disabled women in particular.
If your campaign cannot, and doesn’t, accommodate a significant and important number of the people it’s supposed to be campaigning for, then it needs to be reconsidered. Activism isn’t active or acceptable if it’s not inclusive.
Photo credit: Hardest Hit campaign/Channel4.com
About the author
Olivia Woodward is a blogger, social media enthusiast and history student at the University of York. She has been actively involved in student journalism from the age of 16, writing on a wide range of topics from politics to theatre to fashion. In 2014 she launched Petticoats and Patriarchy, a blog that tackles social justice issues and popular culture from a feminist perspective. Since then, she has become increasingly interested in the way that women are using the internet to speak out against injustices, and the effect that the digital world is having on young women and girls globally. On Digital Women UK, Olivia will blog on social media trends that impact on women and young girls, intersectionality and intends to highlight examples of digital platforms being used to innovate the way women communicate and share online.