The concept of allyship has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. As a result, more businesses and individuals are expressing solidarity with traditionally underrepresented and even oppressed communities. However, there is a significant difference between performative and supportive allyship. It is vital to understand this distinction to ensure that your efforts are authentic and relevant and contribute to positive change.
For example, Pride Month just ended. Throughout the month, you probably saw many rainbow logos and colours. There were many businesses who were simply sporting the logos since it’s what others are doing. They would fall into the performative allyship category. The businesses whose staff genuinely support the LGBTQ2IA+ community go beyond jumping on the trend du jour. Theirs’ is an example of supportive allyship.
In mid-2020, more than 28 million Instagram users posted black squares to show their support for the protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With that number, it is safe to say that many who displayed those black squares on their social media had good intentions but were probably more caught up with appearing supportive rather than actually being supportive offline.
So, what makes someone an ally? Is allyship an identity, and who has the right to claim it? Let’s explore this further by learning more about the distinction between performative and supportive allyship.
Performative Allyship: Superficial Gestures that Lack Genuine Commitment
Performative allyship refers to actions or statements that give the illusion of support and solidarity with marginalized groups without genuine intent or commitment. Instead of coming from genuinely understanding the issues, it frequently results from a desire to appear moral or socially acceptable. Performative allies may make ineffective displays of support, such as sharing social media content or putting on symbolic clothing, without actively opposing oppressive structures or putting in the work to make genuine changes. This category of allyship often prioritizes optics over meaningful action – perhaps to avoid being “cancelled”. But unfortunately, this form of allyship perpetuates a cycle of empty gestures and hollow promises.
Key Characteristics of Performative Allyship:
#1. Superficiality: Performative allies focus on performative acts rather than addressing the root causes of systemic oppression. Their actions tend to be surface-level and lack substance or depth.
#2. Inconsistency: Instead of sustaining consistent support and engagement over time, performative allies may only participate in allyship during high-profile events or when it becomes trendy.
#3. Self-Centeredness: Performative allyship often centres around the ally’s image and seeks personal validation rather than centring the voices and needs of marginalized communities. In other words, the businesses that participate in this manner are more interested in receiving a “pat on the back” and recognition for their efforts before returning to business as usual after the month or event has ended.
Supportive allyship requires more than performative acts; it instead necessitates education, self-reflection, and a willingness to challenge one’s own privilege. This type of allyship is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and a commitment to learning and unlearning. It means recognizing that allyship is not about personal validation or recognition but about supporting and advocating for those who face discrimination and marginalization. To be supportive allies, we must move beyond performative gestures and engage in meaningful actions that contribute to real change.
Supportive Allegiance; Sincere Engagement
Supportive allyship involves sincere engagement and dedication to opposing systemic injustices. Supportive allies actively seek out information about the struggles faced by marginalized groups, pay attention to their concerns, and work to destroy oppressive systems. Rather than simply showing support, they emphasize collaboration and take the lead in enacting meaningful change.
Primary Qualities of Supportive Allyship:
#1. Active Learning: To comprehend the subtleties and complexities of marginalized communities’ experiences, supportive allies continually educate themselves about the issues they’re standing up for.
#2. Amplifying Voices: Supportive allies give marginalized communities a platform and resources to speak out, assisting them in their efforts to bring about change. Allyship is not about your business and how great of an ally you are – it is about embracing others and amplifying the message.
#3. Taking Initiative: Allies who are supportive actively combat discriminatory systems and practices, both in their personal lives and in broader societal contexts. They are committed to creating long-lasting change and are willing to do the necessary work, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Over to You
Understanding the difference between performative and supportive allyship is essential for businesses that wish to support any given cause. Performative allyship may offer temporary validation but lacks the depth and substance required to drive significant change. It may also result in followers questioning your authenticity. Supportive allyship, on the other hand, requires a genuine commitment to learning, listening, and taking concrete actions to challenge systemic oppression.
Written by: Jennifer Hanford, MYOB Blogger