How Filming a TV Show Helped Malia Baker Avoid ‘Activism Illusion’
Generation Z (aka, anyone born after 1996) is showing out this year. Social media isn’t without its trolls and misinformation—we all know this. However, if the persistent work of “Little Miss Flint” Amariyanna Copeny, climate change hero Greta Thunberg, the millions of teenagers creating viral and educational content, and more are any indication, activism is doing just fine in the digital age. Add Malia Baker to that illustrious, wise-beyond-its-years group. Since making her debut on Netflix’s remake of The Babysitter’s Club, her social media platforms (most notably Instagram) have become an amplifier for the causes that should turn our hope into duty.
“There was never a specific event, more like a feeling that’s always been there that I needed to use my voice,” she says. “Although I have educated myself and have known about the inequality of women’s rights, this year I learned a lot more. The one big thing I learned about was female genital mutilation. It is a really hard topic, but it needs to be talked about and stopped.”
Part of her self-education includes research and consistency. Lots of both. If you’re not willing to put in the time and more importantly, admit your shortcomings, what you consider activism is really just an act for the sake of optics.
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I’m so grateful for the turnout yesterday! I gotta say I did NOT expect so many people but I’m so glad so many of you came. I’m also grateful I got the opportunity to speak out yesterday (I’ll put in IGTV), about my experience on racism and my hopes for the future even though I was literally shaking from nerves the whole time haha! I don’t want pity, I want change, and I am so thankful you have all decided to be a part of that change because it is long overdue. Thank you to all the speakers, the organizers and those who came for the march 💞this is a start but keep in mind there is still so much to do ✊🏽💞 #nojusticenopeace #weneedchangenotpity #shaking #blacklivesmatter #blackyouth #justice #protest
“I think it is REALLY important to stay open to learning new things because I’ll never know everything and it is ok to learn!,” she adds. “Putting in the time to research everything I care about is also really important because I want to be able to be confident in the knowledge I have, as well as stay up to date. As such, I subscribe to emails from websites dedicated to the causes I’m passionate about so I don’t miss anything (and I spend time actually reading the updates!).”
And while most of us consider Netflix bingeing a break from reality, filming a Netflix show had quite the opposite impact for Baker, whose role as Mary Anne coincided with the genesis of her work to spotlight women’s issues.
“I think my experience on The Baby-Sitters Club helped me humanize the causes I am so passionate about,” she says. “Seeing and hearing about the experiences of transgender people that I came to know while filming Mary Anne’s episode made me even more engaged than I already was.”
All that being said, it’s hardly difficult to see the upside of social media when used responsibly. Simply reposting pertinent info or including a hashtag in your caption can bring awareness to an overlooked yet important topic. At the same time, social media leaves plenty of room for posers who do little to create actual impact with their influence.
“My least favorite aspect of social media is how it can portray an activism illusion. I think people assume that we are making change because our social media feeds are filled with Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ + content that supports equality for all,” says Baker. “The reality is we are only scratching the surface of what really needs to get done in real time. Our fight does not end on our feeds!”
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On this #indigenouspeoplesday I cannot help but reflect that we stand hand in hand with our brothers and sisters across the globe who have shouldered oppression, injustices, racism and discrimination alongside us. We ARE #strongertogether. “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” – #AngelaDavis #blacklivesmatter #indigenouslivesmatter #amplifyourvoices #celebrate #honour #protect #beanally
If you want to get off your phone and actually do something, first of all, be proud of yourself. Second, it’s time for more research and gasp, actual human interaction (just wash your hands first). “Research what you are passionate about and find out what you can do, whether that’s from home or participating in person,” suggests Baker. “See if you can sign petitions, send emails, or make calls and create awareness on the issues you’re passionate about in your city, asking the people you care about to help and support your efforts.”
Simple advice that never gets old—what’s your next move?
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About Nikki Brown
Nikki Brown is a bonafide Jersey girl and the Editorial Director of BlogHer. When she’s not creating content or connecting with our community, you’ll most likely find her taking way too many pictures of her cats or curled up with a book. She’s also pursuing a Master’s degree in Creative Publishing and Creative Journalism at The New School, so try to keep up by following her on Instagram @missnikkibrown.