Advocacy Vs. Activism Vs. Allyship

What’s the difference? Why do some people identify as one, all of them, or none of them?

Trump’s recent attack on the trans community has us all frustrated, hurt, and angry.

Let’s turn that into a productive mindset.

Today, we’re going to talk about the ways these labels differ, and how YOU can leave this post with a label or idea moving forward against 45’s presidency.

So, what’s the difference and why is this question important?

The answer is simple:

1. Intention vs. Impact

2. Individual vs. Group

Advocacy: (n) public support support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.

Activism: (n) the policy of action of using vigorous campaigning to bring out political or social change.

Allyship: (n) the state or condition of being an ally : supportive association with another person or group

Interesting enough, as these words should be verbs, I’ve found the ways that these words have been used.

However, the difference seems to be the intensity and effect. Varying goals cause for varying titles, hence resulting in various results.

Allies: passive, less intense.

Advocates: still passive but with passion.

Activists: intense, passionate campaigners.


What’s really going on here?

Allyship. There has been a lot of backlash in the LGBTQ+ community about allies “identifying” as allies. It’s not enough to be pro-LGBTQ+, you have to be anti-discrimination. Allyship is not a noun like merriam-webster says; it is a verb, a lifestyle, and a mindset.
Advocacy. Now, this one gets tricky. As you have many advocates who identify as activists and vice versa. What also tends to happen is activists using advocate as a verb to describe the work they’re doing, such as advocating for a cause ex. (flint still doesn’t have clean water).

Note: most non-profits are seen this way. Some of them have different intentions, and thus have varying impacts.

Activist. I’m not going to a protest or organizing them every weekend. I don’t have flags hanging everywhere, and I’m not stirring ruckus everywhere I go; I don’t meet the societal standard for it. Am I really an activist? Where’s my activist certification card?

However, those boxes and labels are just that; boxes and lables. Those labels are what YOU make them to be.

In all three, it is not enough to be pro-cause, you must be anti-discrimination.

Allyship, Advocacy, and Activism are not nouns. They are mindsets, they are ways of life, and they are verbs.

True activism, advocacy, and allyship lie within the intentions of the beholder; and function as labels to describe work: not just support.

You must fight for your cause without relying on other’s work to validate your own. It won’t be the same way, sure, but that’s why we constantly learn, grow, and continue to check your privilege and educate yourself along the way.

You can be part of the problem, or be part of the change. But you can’t be part of the change if you’re not part of anything. Pick another label.

This is @socialjusticesolidarity, signing off~~~

Pc: Public Domain Pictures, Flickr, 445th Airlift Wing, Pixabay

7 thoughts on “Advocacy Vs. Activism Vs. Allyship

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I was not fully aware of the differences between allyship, activism and advocacy so your post really enlightened me to the subject. I agree it all has to do with intention vs. impact and individual vs. group decisions. To call yourself an ally, an activist, an advocate is not just a one-time thing but instead is a constant evaluation and re-evaluation of one’s actions, values, and choices. I agree with your statement that allyship, activism, and advocacy are not nouns but verbs help to re-assess one’s mindset, and one’s lifestyles. Which reminds me of the saying: “Show don’t tell.” Thank you again for clearing up my confusion regarding the difference between the three and making me realize that yes, labels are what I make them be. I define my story and my association with the words. For better and for worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you once again for your wisdom! This is a very important educational lesson that needs to be heard. I greatly appreciate this post, especially because this area is what I want to go into for a living! I agree with you it is all about the intent!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marissa, intentions are important for sure! And it’s important to communicate those intentions, as to make the other party understand the situation clearer; and straighten any confusions as to the situation. For example, microaggressions. While the intention may be well and good, and upon understanding the intention, we might see the personality and humanize the other party. However; the impact is important as well; upon explaining intention, an evaluation of impact is important. For this, it would be a change in mentality, and thus a change in language to limit microaggressions. Advocacy is such a tricky space– and I’m so glad you’re so invested! I’m glad this post helped, as well! Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The following is a quotation from Gloria Anzaldúa’ that fits perfectly with this post: “To be part of an alliance or coalition is to be active, an activist. Activists are alienated from the dominant culture but instead of withdrawing we confront, challenge. Being active meets some basic needs: emotional catharsis, gratification, political epiphanies. But those in an alliance group also feel like a family and squabble and fight like one, complete with a favorite (good child) and a scapegoat (bad child)” (“Bridge, Drawbridge” 141).

    I like this post because it actually shows me that intent is not as important as impact. We can have great intentions, but if our impact is harmful we need to reevaluate our intentions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I really appreciated how you broke down each definition and I totally agree that you can’t claim to be supporting a cause if you actually aren’t doing anything to actually support that cause.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s