8 Things To Keep In Mind When Boosting And Supporting People

Posted May 11, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments


One thing that, in my experience, comes up a fair bit when people see aces and aros ask allies to speak up about the issues we face too is the idea that people can’t boost our voices or issues because something else is happening that affects that person directly. This post, however, won’t look at aces and aros specifically. It looks at general ways I’ve found that are important when speaking up about the hurt done to other marginalisations when your own marginalisation is being hurt too.

It is written from an ace perspective on account of the fact that I am ace spec, after all, but I have done my best to keep the tone of this piece neutral-to-positive and general. It’s also, because I spend most of my time on Twitter, going to use Twitter terminology more than anything else, but I think it applies across various platforms. I hope you’ll find it useful, so let’s dive straight in with the first and, in my opinion, most important point!

1. Keep talking about your own issues.

Seriously. Don’t stop talking about the issues that you and your community face to talk about someone else’s. For one, if you don’t share that marginalisation, that community doesn’t need you to speak for them. For another, your voice regarding what’s happening in your community matters! It’s important!

Do you know who’s qualified to talk about the issues you/your community faces? You are. Don’t stop speaking just because another marginalisation is asking you to boost their voices.

This is especially true and especially important when multiple trashfires are happening in different communities simultaneously. Talk about yours! You don’t have to make threads to discuss what’s happening in another community unless you choose to. People just want a boost in visibility. That’s all.

If you share both? It’s okay to pick and choose which one matters most to you if you need (or want) to. Focus on whichever topic is more important to you at that time. You’re not obliged to talk about both (or either) of them. Just… Do try to boost both if you can.
Relatively, if you think the best approach for you is to focus on making positive and inclusive art and boosting the same, that is absolutely valid. You do what makes sense for you. Everyone does activism in their own way (and this is activism) and there is no One True Way.

2. Retweet or otherwise boost other marginalised voices.

Okay, so you’re dealing with your own stuff, but you see a tweet about something another marginalised group is dealing with. Why not hit that RT/reblog or like button? Even if you don’t engage with it otherwise, that will help the issue become visible to other people and it sure as heck will make the people you’ve retweeted/reblogged feel like they’re being heard and seen.

That’s basically it, though. Whatever you’re dealing with, unless you’re in the middle of a tweetstorm or aught, why not hit that RT button? It only takes a few seconds and a single click and your extended reach could help a lot.

Yes, even if your reach is only tiny. You know that saying about small things adding up? That applies here too. Lots of boosts from people with small reach adds up. It’s like crowdfunding. If 100 people can only chip in $1 each, the total sum raised is still $100 dollars. That can still make a huge difference!

But this is social media, so chances are that a boost is going to reach more than one person. I’m terrible with numbers, so to make maths easier for me (and you!), let’s say that each RT boost will reach 10 people who’ve never heard of the issue before.

If 20 people boost one of my tweets, that means that 200 people whom I could never reach on my own saw that tweet. If those people then boost your boost, that reaches another 20 people each and… that’s… like… 20 times 20 number of people who’d see it so that’s like 400 people? (This is a genuine question.) In any case, that one RT you gave me has the potential to reach exponentially more people than I could reach on my own. And all of that just for a few seconds of effort to hit a button!

3. Don’t speak for the people you’re boosting. Speak with them.

If you don’t share the marginalisation, you are not an expert on what they face. Let them speak for themselves. They’re perfectly capable of it and usually prefer to.

Just to be clear: that doesn’t mean “don’t talk about what other marginalisations deal with”. It just means “Don’t make your voice the only voice your audience sees”. Remember that you’re boosting the people, not the issue.

There are things that, if you don’t have a particular marginalisation, you will never understand in the same way. There are nuances you’ll miss and microaggressions that you might accidentally repeat. You’re trying the best you can, but there are just some things that you can’t see because you have privilege along that particular axis. Sucks, but that’s life.

If you want to speak with people, by all means do. Your voice will be welcome. But please remember this isn’t about you. Do your best to centre the people who are being hurt.

You may not always succeed. That’s okay! We’re people. We mess things up. It happens.

Relatedly, this also applies to including ways for people to support you financially without including ways for them to support the people who are actually being hurt the same way. Yes, I know that it takes a lot of effort and emotional labour to speak about an issue like, say, why something is erasive, but remember this is not about you. If you direct people only to places where they can financially support you, you’re making that thread about you and your voice, even if you include links or boost other people’s threads at the same time. They’re doing the same labour you are and, if you don’t share the marginalisation, at a much greater personal cost. Remember to centre them.

It’s okay to tell people “Hey, if you want to support me, here are ways to do it” if you also focus on ways they can support people of the marginalisation you’re boosting! Please remember to centre them in this area too! They could often use the boost!

4. Recognise that it’s okay if you, personally, cannot boost a specific instance.

Really, it’s okay. People don’t know your circumstances. If you, personally, cannot boost something at a specific time, that’s okay. You, personally, are just one person and self-care is important. Also we can’t boost all the things all the time. It’s exhausting and leads to burn-out.

Just… If you never boost a specific group or topic, even when you’re aware of an issue, and you do routinely boost other groups, the people from the group you never speak about will notice. And at that point, you may have to ask yourself why you never boost that particular group because it’s clearly a pattern that only occurs with that particular group.

5. Recognise that not all marginalised groups get the same level of boosting.

Let me be very clear here: this is not me trying to play a round of oppression Olympics. This is just a simple fact because not all marginalisations are equally widely understood or discussed. Asexuality and aromanticism are largely invisible, so of course straightwashing an aroace character is going to have less visibility (and thus less boosting) than straightwashing a gay character is.

The thing is, though, those smaller marginalisations will notice when they don’t get the same level of boosting and they’ll talk about that amongst themselves. And when they do, someone somewhere is going to tell them that they have no right to be upset about the issue because X, Y or Z is far more important.

That response is what turns it into oppression Olympics. That response is telling marginalised people how to feel and that their issues and oppression isn’t as important as another. So don’t do that. If people are hurt by the lack of support, allow them to talk about that without trying to shame them for it.

Sometimes, members of these groups will vent about the differences in boosting. Sometimes they’ll discuss it amongst themselves. I stress: they’re not doing that because they want to say “Oh, we’re more oppressed than others!” They’re doing it because, actually, it really hurts to see others speak up for or boost everyone else and they just want to talk about that hurt, process it and deal with it. And yes they often also phrase as “Why us? Why does no one listen to us? Why does everyone else get boosted?” because those are valid questions to ask when that’s why you’re hurting. (I have yet to see anyone decide that the answer is “Because we’re more oppressed!” It’s usually something along the lines of “Because we’re invisible”.)

Now, obviously, if someone is making threads about how their issues are more important or trying to derail existing discussions, that’s a different matter. Do not do these things. They are wrong on so many levels and, really, the only thing it accomplishes is that you’re hurting the community you’re trying to help. You’re also hurting the other community that was originally being discussed. Don’t do this. It is harmful to everyone.

6. Be prepared to learn.

Issues don’t just disappear because we RT them (though we can dream and wish). If you’re RTing a specific instance once, chances are that there are more examples of that instance either in the past or in the future that you’re not aware of. That’s okay! You don’t need to be aware of each instance individually ever!

My point here is that when people are talking about issues they face because they’re part of a marginalised group, chances are that this singular instance is an example of something systemic. For example: an article discussing how Jughead might still be ace (and makes no mention of his aromanticism) is a single instance of aro erasure that you can call out. But there have been articles that did it before and there will, almost certainly (T_T) be articles that do it afterwards. It’s a pattern of aro erasure.

Sometimes you’ll easily be able to see how the system repeats itself. Sometimes you won’t. But just because you can’t see it that doesn’t mean it’s not there. (Remember: if you don’t share the marginalisation, you may not notice it. Heck, even if you do share it, you may not notice it at first!)

Anyone, calling out a specific instance once likely isn’t going to do much besides making you feel good for helping.

Be aware of the fact that specific instances that gain discussion traction are often symptoms and examples of a wider problem. You don’t need to know (or recognise) all the individual instances. You do need a rough idea of what the framework it occurs in is, so you can speak out against the framework the instances occur in. And that requires a bit of effort to learn what’s happening in that instance you saw and why it matters.

You don’t have to drop everything to learn about that framework right there and then! Especially if you’re dealing with an issue in your own communities or have personal issues that mean you’re not up to learning new things, you don’t have to drop everything immediately. Again, you are important too. Focus on yourself. Practice self-care. You matter.

But when you’re in a better place and can manage it, try to learn about the issues those other marginalisations face. You want them to learn about the issues you deal with too, right? If you’re never willing to learn about other people, you can’t really expect them to be willing to learn about you.

7. Self-care is important.

I’ve said that a few times and in different ways, but it’s worth repeating and giving it its own point. As many people have pointed out, if you’re marginalised in any way self-care is the most radical thing you can do. I assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re marginalised in at least one way yourself. If you’ve ever spoken out about anything, you’ll undoubtedly know that doing so comes at a price. Trolls will find you and harass you for it. They’ll do the same if you speak out for people whose marginalisation you don’t share.

Practice self-care. Don’t feel obligated to take on more than you can handle. See also: don’t speak for others. That’s a related issue. Often, I see people think that “help us” means “speak for us and get attacked by the trolls for us” and… Listen, I won’t deny that it can be nice to have someone else handle the brunt of the troll attacks for you, but that doesn’t mean they should. No one is obliged to take on trolls. If someone chooses to, that is incredibly generous of them, but it should be their choice.

If you don’t want to take on trolls for another group, that’s okay. Never let anyone tell you that it’s not. It is not your job or obligation to take a proverbial bullet for other marginalised groups.

Take care of yourself too when you boost other people. Boost in ways that balances with your needs and personality.

8. Consider boosting positive things related to a marginalisation.

Again, I’ve mentioned this before, but I thought it deserved its own thread. So something is trash and people are hurting? Boosting their hurt and their discussions isn’t the only way to boost people from that marginalisation! You can also boost positive things that people from that marginalisation have done or are doing!

For example: if a white author publishes a racist book, boost non-white creators and encourage people to support them financially. That creates positive visibility for the people who are being harmed by that instance and it can introduce people to new favourites and marginalised people to creators who share their marginalisation. It is powerful to read books by people who get you.

Marginalised creators often need the boost for visibility and many struggle financially, so your boosts of their work can offer concrete support in a way that boosting the conversations and threads can’t.

And on that note, I think that’s me all rambled out. I hope this is helpful to you! Please do use this post as a jumping out to add more things people can do or shouldn’t do while boosting others. And let me know if I’ve messed something up or left it unclear. Let’s work together to make the world a more inclusive and positive place for everyone!

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