DoSomething should be encouraging us to DO something, not just WEAR something

24 03 2009

This new (triggering) video, 1 in 3 Teenagers is Abused in a Relationship, by the Do Something campaign was released recently. It reenacts the violence Rihanna endured from Chris Brown and is meant to raise awareness and promote activism. So far it’s stirred a lot of controversy:

At the end of the video we are told that 1 in 3 teens are abused in a relationship and we are encouraged to go to DoSomething.org/Abuse to get three free bracelets: one blue and two black in order to raise awareness about teenage relationship violence.

Womanist Musings has a great post on this and says, about the bracelets:

These bracelets have become the symbol of our so-called concern for diversity and tolerance, and yet they function just like any other fashion appendage.  Does anyone really know what each one of the multi colour bracelets and ribbons even means anymore?   We have this social idea that putting on a symbol of an issue somehow means we have performed some sort of activism. The bracelet or ribbon allows us to profess a stated belief without making any concrete efforts for change.   It functions more as a badge of inertia than anything else.

I completely agree with this. These bracelets don’t necessarily raise awareness or make a radical statement. Instead, they’re just a fashion statement that makes people think and reassures them that for wearing these bracelets, they’re quite the activist. So many different causes distribute bracelets to wear in different colors with different messages on them, and it’s hard to keep track of all them. The ubiquity of bracelets also obscures the meaning of the bracelets and the causes they’re supposed to raise awareness and mobilize activism about. It all started with the Nike Live Strong yellow bracelets. And after that, I lost track. Activism is way more than just putting on a bracelet. Or in this case, 3 bracelets.

The post also has very interesting critiques of the video and why/how it should not be endorsed by the womanist/feminist community:

This video is not the least bit groundbreaking and in fact plays on racism and false images of violence to promote hipster activism.   We live in a society that believes that problems can be solved through capitol rather than engagement.  We wear our so-called causes around like latest fashion accessory happily moving from issue to issue, as each social problem comes in and out of vogue.  Though this model has failed to produce any tangible results, we continue to embrace it because we like our activism life McDonalds; fast, cheap and full of unidentifiable ingredients.

Again, well said. Other critiques of the video include that it exploits, re-violates and co-opts the experiences of survivors of relationship violence (like Rihanna); it privileges white female bodies therefore devaluing other racial bodies (since it’s reenacted by two white people); it fails to start/engage in dialogues about race and masculinity; and it plays into bourgeoisie ideas of activism where we are activists if we simply obtain three free bracelets and wear them everywhere we go. Way to change the world!



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