Are we all influencers now? Feminist activists discuss the distinction between being an activist and an influencer

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Abstract

Drawing on thirty qualitative in-depth interviews with a diverse group of feminist activists who are mainly active online, this article analyses how research participants construct and portray ‘activists’ and ‘influencers’. One theme that emerged from the data is the commercial orientation of influencers, the monetisation of their activities online and how this differs from activist pursuits. Activism, by contrast, was constructed as focused on making social change, and not driven by commercial interests. This article argues that the research participants’ discussion of the differences between ‘influencer’ and ‘activist’, and the attribution of monetisation to influencers, underplays the ways in which market logics help to structure contemporary forms of activism that take place in the digital economy. Second, the article places the investment in forms of activism that are uncompromised by commercial pursuits in the wider context of feminised and exclusionary cultures of perfection. Lastly, the article reflects on common constructions of influencing as a feminised as well as trivial pursuit and cautions against accounts that uncritically present influencing as trivial in contrast to activism, which is considered more serious.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFeminist Theory
Early online date4 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023

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