A lot of the sort of Everyone’s a fucking activist ain’t they? Anyone who has ever posted a Trump meme, followed Momentum on twitter or has a Lush tote bag can claim they are fighting the good fight. To be considered an activist all you need to do is call yourself one - activist has become more of an identity than a activity or action.
I have a love/hate relationship with the term - I was called it before I called myself it, I flirt with the idea of calling myself or not calling myself an activist on a daily basis - it’s been in and out of my bio more times than I can remember.
My reticence in claiming the title, that space and the social currency it currently brings is that I think its a position that should be earned, I think it should be given to you, and I wonder, rightly so, if I’ve earned it enough. Travis Alabanza on their episode of Sofie Hagen’s Made of Human podcast talks about feeling uncomfortable with being called an activist or spokesperson because they know more deserving folk who do brilliant things, show up for the political stuff etc. and I totally relate to that.
I’ve had long winded, round about conversations with activists about if I can or cannot claim to be one, if my work can or cannot be considered activism. After reading Michael Segalov’s piece about his thoughts on my activism’s in my archive book Scottee: I Made It, I’m more inclined now to think of my work as activist but still undecided if that makes me one. What should be acknowledged here is that I’ve probably sought counsel from a very brilliant, very talented educated middle class person to validate my activism.
When I first found myself in queer circles in the midsts of London’s alternative gay scene of the mid-noughties I met queer activists who had directly fought for the equalities I was utilising. These were often working class queer men who lived through decriminalisation, HIV/AIDS stigma, equal age of consent, Section 28, employment rights, rebelling assimilation politics pushed by Stonewall and then some. I was particularly encouraged by Jim Warboy - him too the child of Irish migrants, common as you like, mouthy and responsible for some extremely brilliant activism’s that contributed to queer visibility now. As John-Paul Flintoff reminds us in How to Change the World the most effective activism’s are those that are ancestral activism’s - acknowledging change takes time and you are not doing this for yourself but the next generation.
In the age of self-grandeois digital popularity with everyone scrabbling for instagram followers to prove their worth activism has become less about showing up, wearing the badge, disruption, protest and party politics and more about double taps, sponsored posts and screen grabs. Now, I’m not saying these are ineffective - they are indeed conscious raising ...but how are they meeting the enemy or disrupting the status quo if the only people who see them are those who’ve already opted in?
My point isn’t if they should be considered activists or not but wanting to question who is currently allowed to take that title, exist in that space, whose voice is amplified? With those who look the best getting the furthest, those with desirable lifestyles, the currency to keep up with capitalist ideals at the forefront, once again I feel it's the middle classes that are put front and centre to discuss social issues on large platforms, debating social issues that will largely not affect them in the same way it does the working classes. It's those with the privilege of a paid education, those with enough time to spare to dedicate their lives to being online and ‘calling shit out’ with clap emojis, those with the luxury of luxury. The current faces of digital social activism are those with the most social and sexual capital.
If we don’t have representation at a grass roots level, visibility within radical communities, if we don’t advance working class voices within activism then I worry that we head towards further working class erasure (again) within social and governmental politics. I worry we push deeper into a world in which working class issues are represented by those who’ve never experienced them.
It’s time privileged activists, those with platforms and those allowed to be the loudest used their capital and currency for some activism that goes beyond their own desires and advancement. If activist history has taught us anything about civil movements its when we create diverse debate, when resources are shared, thinking joined up and communities interact we’re able to push harder with our agendas.
I’m asking you to signal boost working class activists, to line their pockets so their work reaches further. If you can’t do that then simply endorse the voices that don’t sound like yours - follow, make louder, listen ‘cause if your socialist activism’s or your politic isn’t intersectional then you’re doing it wrong.
Here are some folks that may or may not consider their work to be activist - this is a list of some common folk I know that create work / interventions around equality, privilege and access. It’s not a definitive list but these folk do brilliant things.
Follow, support, make louder….
Charline Taylor Stone - https://twitter.com/misschazmatazz
Jim Warboy - http://instagram.com/warboy_music
Lois Weaver - https://twitter.com/whynottammy
Travis Alabanza - https://twitter.com/travisalabanza
Patrick Fox - https://twitter.com/PatrickFox01
Phyll Opuku-Gyimah - https://twitter.com/MsLadyPhyll
Outburst Arts - https://twitter.com/OutburstArts
Fox Irving - https://twitter.com/foxirving
Brian Teeling - https://twitter.com/brianteeling
La JohnJoseph - https://twitter.com/LaJohnJoseph
Tobi Kyeremateng - https://twitter.com/bobimono
Akala - https://twitter.com/akalamusic
Stephen Donnan - https://twitter.com/Donnan_S
Matty May - https://twitter.com/thatmattymay
Jack Monroe - https://twitter.com/BootstrapCook
Josh Is Fab - http://instagram.com/joshisfab
Lorraine Maher - https://twitter.com/Iamblirish
Adam Shanley - https://twitter.com/Adlers1
Jack Rooke - https://twitter.com/jackrooke
Mandy Colleran - https://twitter.com/disabilitydiva