Allie: Good morning, Michelle, happy Thursday. 

Michelle: Happy Thursday to you. My favorite day of the week.

Allie: Yay. And also happy pride month. 

Michelle: This is awesome. I love the colors of the rainbow and all of the different flags.

Allie: My birthday’s in June and this year, I believe my birthday falls on Juneteenth. So I feel extra special this year. Being a bisexual person and having my birthday be in pride month is really fun. And then having my birthday be on Juneteenth this year is really fun.

What is Performative Support/Virtue Signaling?

Today I wanted to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind every June. I call it performative support. It’s also referred to as virtue signaling. The example that that’s on my mind recently is companies that maybe typically aren’t very LGBTQ friendly, or might have policies that harm LGBTQ people… Hocking rainbow stuff during pride month. And being like, “Yay. Love is for everyone, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And making all this money, selling rainbow stuff. While that is not something that they support throughout the rest of the year.

And it really makes me irritated because it’s like you’re making money off of people without actually supporting what it is that that rainbow flag stands for. And there are lots of examples of this, right? Like one of the most mind-blowing examples: Donald Trump does have a make America great again, hat, uh, which is referred to as a pride hat that where the letters are rainbow. 

Michelle: Oh my God. I never saw it.

Allie: It’s ridiculous. There is another example. These are all our opinions, right? Like I’m not going to come out and say, this company is trash. But Adidas has a pride pack where they sell rainbow merchandise to honor pride month. But Adidas is one of the major sponsors of I think it’s this year’s world cup, or maybe it’s a previous year. I can’t, I don’t know when this article is written. But they’re major supporters of an event that takes place in Russia, which is a country with anti LGBTQ laws, which makes it unsafe for queer fans and athletes to participate.

So it’s this contradictory just nonsensical thing where it’s like, okay, you don’t actually understand what it is that you’re doing. And it’s very frustrating. I feel this way about Disney sometimes, right? Like Disney has been known to support queer organizations.

Disney has like a rainbow collection of swag. And they’ve also pledged to support a variety of domestic and international LGBTQ organizations, which is fantastic. But Disney’s history into today has been homophobic, right? Like they’re not champions of queer representation in their media. And all of these things really frustrate me.

If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, you have to put your money where your mouth is. You can’t just say that you support something or believe in something or someone. Because that is the popular thing to do in the moment. And then go back on that with your actions.

So I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about how that whole thing transfers into our careers as tech people in the WordPress world. 

Michelle: Absolutely. It kind of reminds me too, of how everything turns pink in October for breast cancer awareness and how all these companies are like, you know, buy this and we’ll give X number of dollars to breast cancer research. And it’s like, just give money to breast cancer research. 

Allie: Do it anyway!

Michelle: So I understand the marketing. I understand. But the thing is when you’re doing the marketing, it is virtue signaling, right? Because it’s like, by my pink thing, I will give money to research, but you’ve also just bought my pink thing and I’m not giving all the profits, I’m keeping profit and I’m growing my business based on you wanting to help people who have breast cancer.

And how much of that money actually goes to not just research, but supporting people who have breast cancer, you know?

Transparency with Virtue Signaling

Allie: And there’ve been so many scandals over the years of companies not giving the money to the organization. Right. Like, I think that’s less common now because of a few scandals, like years and years ago, but I’ve definitely heard of instances where people or companies rather will say, you know, we’re pledging this much to blah, blah, blah.

And that money never makes it to where they say it’s going to go. And so it’s, it’s this huge trust issue. if I’m in the grocery store and they’re like, oh, do you want to donate $3 to hungry children? And I’m like, I want to, but I have no assurance that this is actually like, I don’t know where this money is going.

I don’t know if you’re taking a percentage of this money, right? Like there’s this trust and transparency issue. Which sucks. Like it sucks to walk through the world having to be jaded and think about that things. But companies kind of set us up.

Companies are made of people

Michelle: And it’s, but people do it too. Right? So companies are made of people and people are the ones making those decisions. And basically it’s always about power and it’s always about money and figuring out like, you know, that phrase, follow the money.

That’s not to say that there aren’t people who are doing the right thing. Of course there are. I am not on the LGBTQ. Yeah, I’m not a member of the LGBTQ spectrum.

But, you know, on Tik Tok they have, what’s called the alphabet mafia. And those are the people who support the people who are in the LGBTQ community. I consider myself an ally for sure. And, you know, as I always say on this show, we all still have things to learn and I still have things to learn to be a better ally because it doesn’t stop.

Don’t stop learning. You are no longer a good ally if you stop learning. There are companies that try to do good things. And even when they try to do good things, there are those who will still attack them for those good things. 

Virtue Signaling on social media

Allie: You can’t please everybody. As soon as you decide to make a stand about something, you are going to be isolating somebody else, but there’s like a standard.Do you want to be a pleaser? 

Michelle:Yeah, exactly. There’s an image that’s been going around Facebook for the last couple of days. Cause you know, we’re only about three days into pride month right now. And it’s got a rainbow background and it talks about it and it’s a pretty long phrase. It talks about how they’re an ally and you know, I support gay people, trans people, lesbian, blah, blah, blah.

I think that’s great that people share that whatever. But to me that’s a little bit of virtue signaling, right? Cause I could just pick up any image. And just share it. When I personally write about supporting any community, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s LGBTQ, whether it’s black lives matter, like any of the different movements that I support, I write my own post and I talk from my heart because I don’t just want to be like, oh, here’s an image that makes me look like I support you all.

And I’m not saying I’m great. I’m not trying to say that at all, but I’m just trying to say that there’s different ways that you could express your support besides just rehashing the same image that everybody else on the internet is sharing so that they look like they are cool and they look like they support.

And I always want to like DM them separately and go… How do you feel about this issue and you feel about that issue and find out if it’s really that’s like the first time that they felt like let’s face it. Sometimes it’s like the first time I feel comfortable posting something and I posted that image.

That’s great. Maybe I’m in a church that won’t support that I posted this and for some people that is a brave thing to put out there and for others, it’s like, oh yeah, I’m just going to put that up there. And then everybody will think that I’m cool too.

Allie: And I mean, it’s kinda tough, right? Because that’s the nature of social media in general is performance. Being performative… showing, picking, and choosing exactly a content that you feel is going to represent you and what you feel and what you think and sharing those things. We cultivate what we want people to think of us based off what we post on social media.

And like… I’m a very judgy person. I will. That’s one of my biggest flaws, one of my biggest character flaw is I’m very judgey. And I judge people if I go to their social media profile and I only see that they share things from other places, I’m like, do you have any original thoughts to share?

Like, do you have anything unique to contribute out into the world or you just collecting other things and patching together? You know I feel like that’s a whole other conversation, right. About how we use social media. But I definitely want to tie this conversation back to our WordPress space.

There are so many people who have shown heartwarming support for the things that you and I do – underrepresented in tech and, and other things. I appreciate everyone, but the people that I appreciate the most are the people who say that they support us and will share the things that we share, but who will also DM us and say, what can I do to help?

Or the people who use our database. Financial support, donations, those are all great, but like the people who actually do things to make sure that we go forward and succeed are great.. And I think there are a lot of people in this space who want to be better allies across the board.

And that really, that starts with saying, I am going to be an ally. I am an ally. I support XYZ, putting BLM in your profile, putting pronouns in your profile, blah, blah, blah. But it has to continue beyond there. My top is hiring people, right? Like I was on a podcast yesterday and they asked about underrepresented in tech.

They asked how can people help? And my number one thing was use the database to hire people. Help underrepresented people put food on their tables.

How can people be true allies?

Michelle: So I think one of the biggest things is using people’s pronouns. And not just to their faces, but when you talk about them, like, and I don’t mean to talk about them, gossip, of course but like, you know, oh, did you see so-and-so, you know, they did this or he or she did that based on what they have told you their pronouns are.

Supporting who they are as a person by number one, believing who they say they are because that’s their truth. But also then supporting who they are by using the right pronouns. It doesn’t hurt you at all to use somebody pronouns.

Allie: It’s so funny. In a Tik Tok or something, it was this trans girl, and she was basically saying that her grandmother refused to use her correct pronouns. She would use he/him pronouns. And so the girls started calling the grandmother Grandpa Mary or whatever, and the grandmother would get upset and she was like, yeah, it hurts doesn’t it? Like, it’s frustrating. Isn’t it? You’re saying that my pronouns don’t matter. But if I call you grandpa, instead of grandma, you get mad.

Like it just takes a little bit of perspective and a little bit of like internalization to realize being acknowledged for who I want to be acknowledged as regardless of what you see. It’s extremely important. 

Why and how words have effect

Michelle: Yeah. Words matter words matter. And you know, I was thinking about this the other day when we marginalized people, when we talk about a group by saying, you know, they, and like, okay.

And I’m quoting, I saw a tweet the other day that said the blacks and I was just like, oh my God, I think it’s not just right that right. Oh my God. And that’s like, like this month, people say the gays, that’s not okay either. You know, the words matter more for two reasons. Number one, it shows you, it shows other people who you are, but it also matters to the person that you’re talking about.

If somebody was talking about you that way you would be offended. So don’t offend other people. It’s simple. 

Allie: Like, would you want to be referred to as the whites or one of the whites, you know, like it’s just, it has this massively dehumanizing quality to it, which is just, and, and, you know, that is different from, I was talking to my mom about this the other day, how sometimes I feel bad for white people because black people in America have.

Changed the way that we refer to ourselves so many times over the last hundred years, like at one point to say that somebody was colored was acceptable, it was perfectly fine. At one point to say, you know, the N word or Negro was perfectly fine and acceptable, right? Now we went to black, which is kind of having a resurgence, but at one point black was fine and then it wasn’t, it was African-American right.

We, we do have a tendency to read the fine ourselves the lot. And so sometimes I feel bad for people where they’re like, oh my God, I don’t know which word is, is the right one to use anymore. But that is different. Then, you know, the whites, the blacks, the gays, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, 

Michelle: let’s think about it this way with we’re talking about dog breeds.

We don’t say the German shepherds. We don’t say that two hours. You know, we say German shepherds. We say chihuahuas. So if we can, if we can like give dogs the respect of not calling them the German shepherds, why could we not give entire races of people that respect by referring to them the proper way?

Allie: Yeah. And I feel like a good rule of thumb for that is like, if you’re ever in doubt, right. Because I, I remember hearing or reading a conversation on Twitter a while back where people were debating, you know, saying, what was it referring to somebody as autistic or a person with autism. And each person was saying like, I don’t like the other one.

I preferred this one. And so I’ve kind of defaulted to this rule of thumb of saying a person who is black or a person who has autism, like starting with a person or a person who is gay. That man who is gay. You know, if it’s, if it’s applicable to the conversation, but leading with the person, a person, a man, a woman or whatever.

And then if it is appropriate to the conversation who is blank, because you’re tacking that onto their personality and Octa who they are, but you’re not defining them by that adjective. 

Michelle:Right? Exactly. There’s if, if, and, you know, it goes back to our previous conversation we had on another blog. Where, if the characteristic of the person, whether it be LGBTQ, whether it be ethnicity, if it’s not pertinent to the conversation, leave it out.

Yeah. Just leave it out. You know, like, okay, you have gay friends. Great. I have friends are gay. Some of them are black. Some of them are Hispanic. Some of them are neurodivergent. They’re just my friends, you know, did they have to be labeled every time? Now, if somebody is talking about their sexuality, And it’s pertinent in conversation and they are bringing up things in conversation.

Great. That’s awesome. Fantastic. Yeah, but when we talk about people, we don’t have to bring those kinds of terminologies into the conversation. Is that necessary? I feel like we’ve meandered a lot in this conversation a little 

Allie: Everything we said, I think is important.

Michelle: To bring it back to working in technology and things. We talked about pronouns, but also about having safe spaces and having people within companies that somebody can go to. If they are uncomfortable, if they are having, you know, the last month was mental health awareness month.

If they’re having mental health issues, they need somebody to talk to. All of those things are equally important. And with small companies that makes it very difficult sometimes. Uh, and we talked about that before, too. So just keeping those kinds of things in mind. Whether it’s LGBTQ or not, uh, you D we need to have a reporting space so that if there’s, if you need to whistle blow about the way that somebody is treating you within a company, you need to be able to report that without bias for the person that you’re talking to, all of those things are equally important.

Allie: Absolutely. Yeah. We talked about that a little bit last week. Not last week, week before. It’s incredibly important to have that available as an option, but. So it’s the whole separate but equal concept, right.

Of okay. If I work at a company and I feel like I can’t be myself, except for when, when I’m talking to other black women or other queer people at the company, right. It’s, that’s a very othering feeling of, we have to be relegated to this channel of slack and cannot. Be authentic to ourselves outside of there.

And that’s a fine line to walk right. Of giving people a safe space without. Trapping them or, you know, imprisoning them in, in that space and, and communicating like, well, you can’t talk about being black or you can’t mention that you’re gay in the general slack channel. That’s for your, you know, it’s a difficult line to walk.

I appreciate that. You know, it’s not always a cut and dry thing because some people don’t like those groups because it feels very. Othering. It feels very, this is your water fountain. You know what I mean? But I think in the world we live in right now, it is important to have a space where you can feel completely comfortable.

And that is, I think, a stepping stone toward people being able to just be who they are. In their general slack channels and, and their general spaces and not be the whole idea, right. Is to not need safe spaces. Right. Like, I feel like there’s a lot of, people make fun of millennials for advocating for safe spaces, but the whole idea is to have a safe space until we don’t need it anymore.

Michelle: Sometimes they’re just one person that you can open up to. We get to text each other, we text each other, we slack each other and we talk to each other in like four different channels. That’s hysterical, texting you in one place and respond in another. It’s just, it’s so much fun. Wild, 20 years ago, when I worked at a university of Rochester, there was a gender studies department at the undergraduate school. And I had to have a meeting in that building about something else, because I worked at a different school. At the school at the university.

And so I went over there and I saw like these posters on the wall, outside of the offices of the gender studies area, that was also, you know, they had the rainbows and they said, specifically, this is a safe zone from wherever you are, whatever you believe this is a safe place for you to come in and be who you are.

And I was like, that’s really cool. To be able to say I’m a safe space. So maybe it isn’t even saying, you all go over there to be safe. It’s being able to say to somebody I’m a safe space for you and you can talk to me about anything. And if I don’t know an answer, if I don’t know how to help you, I’ll help you think through it, or I’ll at least be here to listen.

You know, I would always try to solve your problems, but I’ll at least listen to your problems and be here for you. But I am a safe space and I hold space for you. Even if I’m not, you know, the answer to, to what you’re dealing with.

How to succeed at monthly holidays without virtue signaling

Allie: And I think like that immediately makes me think of big orange heart, right?

Like big orange heart is kind of that for our community of a place where people can go and just let out, if they need to, you know, find that support if they need to. And so, yeah, I want to get kind of circling back to our, virtue signaling, performative support thing. A good example of the opposite of that I think is where you are at GiveWP.

They share you with big orange heart. They’ve supported big orange heart in many, many, many different ways. And right now in your swag store, you have. Like merch that goes to supporting big orange heart. And like, I think some people might see like, oh, like there’s big orange hearts wide for mental health month.

That seems like virtue signaling, but behind the scenes as long as I can remember GiveWP has supported big orange heart in various ways. And that is a really good example of doing something for mental health awareness month. But the history of that support goes back and back and back and goes on into the future.

You know? So you can, you can, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t have pride merch or you shouldn’t have mental health awareness murder. You shouldn’t have breast cancer awareness month merge. Just make sure that if somebody tries to look back in your history of, of supporting causes and organizations like that, that this is not a one-time thing, you know what I mean?

Michelle: Right. And that was last month. So this month we have a gay pride merch. All of our merch says love wins, and it’s beautiful. And, uh, and the profits go to have a gay day.org and we worked with them on the design. And so sometimes it’s not about necessarily the entire company being somebody who puts money into an organization or whatever, but the fact that the members of the organization are open and. Welcoming and safe spaces and choose organizations.

Like we got to say, yes, we want this organization to be the one that, you know, we’ve worked with them as customers. We’ve supported them that way. And we want these, we want, uh, you know, to help raise money for them. 

Allie: I feel like I only have heard everything you just said because I’m ruling over. So I’ve been off Twitter for the league and I have not, I have, I guess I haven’t seen the, uh, like announcement of, of this swag, but I got the big orange heart.

Swag was cute. These designs who designed these is it. This is the shout out to Kirkland. These are so I’m literally adding a hoodie and a mug to my cart. Right now. And if you’re already should I get a medium hoodie? Okay. So we need to end because I need to go shopping.

Michelle: Well, as this was a pleasure to talk to you, even if we’d be under our conversation, I think people can pull some good stuff out of it. I think since we are safe spaces. So if people are out there in the tech community, need somebody to be an ally, whether it’s one of our underrepresented areas, our are open.

We have a contact form on our website as well. So you can always go to underrepresented in tech.com and you know, email us, catch us on Twitter, any of those things. And we would be happy to find ways to support you!