Pitfalls of Performative Activism, Seen at the Golden Globes


Isabella Lopez, Co-Editor

Actress Blanca Blanco caused a stir after wearing a bright red, revealing dress to the 2018 Golden Globes after most entertainers in attendance agreed to wear black in support of those who have been sexually abused. both in and out of the industry. If we were being honest, Blanca Blanco, a fairly unknown actress, may have simply done it for the attention. After all, most of us did have to Google her during or after the Golden Globes. After garnering the attention she may have wanted, she offered her support for the Time’s Up Campaign by tweeting, “The issue is bigger than my dress colour… Red is passionate.” Whether Blanco did it for the publicity or not, she must have known there was nothing to really be contributed to the cause by wearing black, though there certainly was something to be gained: an alibi.

Connie Wang, Senior Features Writer at the online magazine Refinery29, tweeted the night of the event, “My main gripe is that had Weinstein not been exposed, he would have been here, been in black, and would have easily been considered a supporter. How many sexists and harassers are in black tonight?” Wang raises an interesting point. Weinstein was outspoken about women’s rights and feminism on the surface, but it was merely a façade. Performative activism (e.g. wearing a safety pin after the 2016 election or wearing pink for breast cancer awareness) does little more than create an image of support for others. These acts alone cannot further any cause if there isn’t real, productive help involved as well, like spending time volunteering, spreading in-depth knowledge, or donating money. The real change needs to happen through our actions. Of course, it’s important to raise awareness, but it’s easy for anyone to put on an act and pretend to care about a cause.

And who better to put on such a performance than Hollywood’s best? Aziz Ansari, a comedian and actor praised for his support for women’s rights, was one of those who attended the Golden Globes in all black. Less than a week later a story broke on the online magazine babe, alleging that Ansari continuously pressured a woman into having sex with him despite her clear signals and attempts to say no. When the woman flat out stated that she was not interested in having sex with him, Ansari seemed to acknowledge her wish, stating that they would “just chill,” until he suggested oral sex again, to which the woman gave in, “feeling pressured.” This seemed to only prompt Ansari to continue ignoring her discomfort and feel justified in suggesting further sexual acts. When the woman verbally said no to Ansari a second time, he suggested they “chill” again, before continuing to kiss her and attempt to “undo her pants.” The woman left in tears.

The story drew mixed reactions, particularly from men who most likely identified with the story, as it’s not all too uncommon; some went as far as to call it just a “bad date.” Maybe people are so hesitant to acknowledge that Ansari’s behavior is just as unacceptable as it is frequent because that would mean also acknowledging that we most likely have committed or have experienced similar acts in our own lives, at varying degrees of severity. Rape and sexual assault are not clear cut and black and white, and unfortunately, neither is consent. Ansari did not have to rape this woman to violate her boundaries and abuse her trust. What our society lacks as a whole is the emotional intelligence to notice and respect the physical and verbal cues of those around us; the ability to think about the needs of others before the needs of ourselves, and that’s exactly what performative activism often is: selfish.

It doesn’t matter if Blanca Blanco wore a red dress because it doesn’t matter that Aziz Ansari wore a black suit. We need to stop focusing on performative activism, which is often self-serving and accomplishes very little, and work to create real solutions through real work. The Time’s Up campaign took this criticism after news spread that actors would attend the Golden Globes in all black to support victims of sexual assault, by starting a legal defense fund to fight sexual harassment in all industries. While most people don’t have the money or platform to contribute so greatly to such a cause, interacting with this dialogue and taking a deep introspective look at ourselves in all our relationships, sexual or not, is a good place to start.