A Bunch Of Influencers Are Getting Dragged For Their Performative Activism On Invasion Day
Influencers posting about how bad Australia Day is then going out to celebrate it just hours later? Sounds about right.
Yesterday was Invasion Day, a day many Aussies still celebrate as Australia Day.
But while January 26 is traditionally known as a day of celebration and an excuse to get on the beers for white Australians, for Aboriginal people it’s a painful day of mourning and reminder of their survival.
In recent years, there has been a significant push for the government, at the bare minimum, to change the date Australia Day is celebrated. This is because January 26 marks the day that Terra Nullius was declared as Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack on Australian shores, and so begun the colonisation and attempted genocide of Aboriginal people.
With the Black Lives Matter movement picking up in June last year, after the murder of George Floyd, there was a significant increase in people taking notice of the issues that Black and Bla(c)k people face across the world.
However, during this time, some techniques used to show solidarity with First Nations and Black people were called out as performative activism. For example, during #BlackOutTuesday, when people decided to post black squares on their Instagram to take a stand, and pause their feeds for the day.
Yet, many of those who participated in #BlackOutTuesday later deleted these squares or made them the only thing they did for the movement, which ultimately proved that their participation was only really ever about making people think they cared for the cause, instead of actually caring.
influencers deleting their beloved black square of solidarity because it’s messing up their feed is EXACTLY why people found it a hollow gesture to begin with, btw.
— jade (@itsjustjadaxo) June 10, 2020
Influencers, Performative Activism And Invasion Day
With Invasion Day yesterday, a similar thing appeared to happen with Australian influencers voicing their support of January 26 not being the right day to celebrate, and then turning right around and celebrating Australia Day anyway.
For example, early yesterday morning, Sydney-based influencer and P.E Nation co-founder, Pip Edwards, shared a screenshot of an article that argued that there was “no cause to celebrate”. The article highlighted the numerous reasons that Invasion Day should not be celebrated, including the massacre of Indigenous people, the lands stolen, the culture destroyed and the children taken away from their families.
Along with the screenshot, Edwards captioned the story with “IN BLACK AND WHITE”, which seemingly showed her support for changing the date was as clear as day.
Yet, mere hours later, Edwards Instagram story was filled with photo and video evidence of her Australia Day celebration — including a video where her party flew the Aboriginal flag upside-down alongside the Australian flag — and an in-feed post originally captioned: “A day to celebrate the land that we live and thrive on. I love you Australia”.
Similarly, ex-Bachelorette Elly Miles went on to celebrate Australia Day despite having attended an Invasion Day rally earlier in the day.
On the morning of Invasion Day, Miles told her followers in a video that it “would just be so good if we could just change the date”.
“I would love so much for everybody in Australia to celebrate Australia on a day that isn’t severely traumatic and awful for our Indigenous cultures,” she said on her story before attending a rally. “Growing up I had celebrated, but I just didn’t know any better, and it took me having conversations with some Indigenous friends and work colleagues for me to truly understand the meaning of the day for indigenous culture — and it’s not good.”
After this story, Miles showed herself walking her dog and then attending a local rally, before having an Australia Day “pool party” that was documented on her Instagram story.
Also caught celebrating Australia Day, after sharing numerous Black Lives Matter posts back in June, was Bachelor star Jess Brody, who initially denied claims that she was at an Australia Day party.
Despite having shared numerous photos and videos of her celebrations on a boat and the event she attended literally being called an “Australia Day Day Cruise”, Brody called what she attended an “Australia Day-themed event”.
When questioned by her followers, according to the So Dramatic Podcast Instagram account, Brody said she was “just on a boat with friends after a year of not seeing them”, and told her followers that she “won’t promote equality again” in response to the backlash she received.
For context, in June last year, Brody posted photos of Black Lives Matter protests with the caption “keep that same energy” and a text post that said “posting a black box on Instagram does not absolve you from taking concrete action to confront your own racism or racism around you… fighting racism is a constant process, not just a one-off”. However, Brody didn’t seem to “keep the same energy” when Invasion Day rolled around.
Like Brody, Married At First Sight alum, Cameron Merchant also posted a number of things during the Black Lives Matter movement last year.
Beyond his black square for #BlackOutTuesday, Merchant shared an image of a Black and white person holding hands, that read: “I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand”.
In the caption of the image, Merchant went on to say that “while we cannot undo what has happened in the past, we can see it, try and understand it, but most importantly, learn from it and change so that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger, but in wisdom, understanding and love”.
Yet, just like the other influencers mentioned, the MAFS star still chose to also celebrate Australia Day and post about it on his Instagram story despite everything he had posted previously.
Expected Backlash And Apologies
As expected, when the backlash — about the major hypocrisy and performative activism happening — started to flood in, many of these influencers deleted their stories, double-backed on their original excuses and apologised for their actions.
This was likely also because I’m A Celeb’s Abbie Chatfield publicly called out many of them. On her Instagram story, Chatfield noted the hypocrisy of all these influencers urging their followers to “be the change” but then going on to celebrate Australia Day themselves.
“You aren’t being the change if you’re participating in harmful traditions like, idk, celebrating genocide on stolen land. This is the EASIEST fucking decision. To just NOT,” she said in a lengthy statement.
“If you were *actually* listening to speakers at these rallies you wouldn’t be able to have fun in the afternoon. You’d want to dig deeper, feel a responsibility to be uncomfortable to hopefully learn something,” Chatfield continued.
“The level of cognitive dissonance in believing that you can ACTUALLY attend a rally and then just pop on over to your pool party is something else.”
While apologising, Pip Edwards explained that her “intentions were always from a good place, in support of all people, wanting unity and community in this country and globally”.
“I innocently did not realise that the Aboriginal flag was upside down and was more focused on the idea of raising both flags together on the one pole, flying as one,” Edwards continued. “I understand it was a huge mistake to not know at the time but my intention was never to cause disrespect.”
Also apologising, Jess Brody said that she was “disappointed” in herself as she has “always been somebody who speaks up about these things”.
While she initially claimed that she “saw it as nothing but spending time with friends after a year of isolation”, she clarified that she did understand that what she did was “tone-deaf and inappropriate” as she’s “always tried to be a voice against systemic racism.”
“For me to go to an Australia Day-themed event is so out of touch. Obviously, I can’t change it. I did it,” Brody shared. “I’ve been going through some shit lately and not feeling great, and i was just trying to keep my mind pre-occupied, but yeah I fucked up.”
Releasing her statement, Elly Miles apologised for her actions too, by saying she had a “complete lapse of judgement” and has “a lot of regret for my actions”.
“I sincerely apologise for upsetting anyone. I stand by my attendance at the Change the Date protest and feel that it is an incredibly important issue,” Miles continued. “I truly wasn’t being insincere with my attendance. I know how it looks, we all make mistakes – I made one yesterday and all I can say once again, from the bottom of my heart is that I am truly sorry.”
whatever your thoughts may be on australia day, don't just post your support to change the date because it's trendy to do so. seen far too many influencers sharing contradictory posts today. social media is a representation of who you are + your views, not just a wheel of trends.
— Jessica Cook (@sociallysquared) January 26, 2021
However it should be said that the issue here isn’t that these people celebrated Australia Day, as many Australians still do. Instead there seems to be a growing problem with slacktivism on social media, where people give minimal effort to causes as a way to help excuse their future actions and tick the necessary boxes to avoid being called out. But when you have hundreds of thousands of followers watching your every move, this confusing, mixed-messaging is bound to get picked up on — as we saw happen on Invasion Day with these influencers.
At the end of the day, attending a rally doesn’t give you a free pass to continue celebrating the day, nor does telling yourself the obvious Australia Day event you attended was only “Australia Day-themed”. You cannot have the best of both worlds by making your followers think you support the plights of our First Nations people, while simultaneously waving around an Australian flag and throwing pool parties on Jan 26.
It also highlights the problem that influencers have with sharing and over-sharing. Not everything needs to be documented online, because sometimes, like this very moment, you end up telling on yourself.
All influencers mentioned in this article were reached out to for comment. None responded by time of publication.