Political activists are like the coolest people, said no one ever.
According to a new study, most people find political activists (particularly environmentalists and feminists) seriously obnoxious. That resistance tends to manifest itself against the issues in question, as well. You might not hate the environment, but you’re not going out of your way to sign up for a recycling bin because: Environmentalists, damn it.
Participants in the study held highly negative stereotypes about feminists and environmentalists, and that those feelings affected their willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted.” Negative stereotypes associated with political activism play “a key role in creating resistance to social change,” according to the research team.
This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to your average American ignoramus, either. The study in question actually hails from our neighbors in the great white north.
Yes. Even Canada hates political activists.
The Pacific Standard notes that this is probably really frustrating news for activists, but the data needs some unpacking. For instance, one study in the group gauged reactions to two types of activists: Stereotypical, i.e. aggressive, loud, and zealous, versus atypical, i.e. less-abrasive all around.
Consider the difference in tone between the following two statements:
“I hold rallies outside chemical research labs.”
“I’m involved in organizing social events … to raise money for grassroots-level environmental organizations.”
Guess which tone tested better and motivated test subjects to adopt the same behaviors? Let’s hear the researchers tell it:
“Unfortunately, the very nature of activism leads to negative stereotyping. By aggressively promoting change and advocating unconventional practices, activists become associated with hostile militancy and unconventionality or eccentricity.”
“Furthermore, this tendency to associate activists with negative stereotypes and perceive them as people with whom it would be unpleasant to affiliate reduces individuals’ motivation to adopt the pro-change behaviors that activists advocate.”
Basically, stop being obnoxious. If you’re off-putting and single-mindedly obsessed with shoving your beliefs down the throats of others, surprise, no one will want to listen to you. People don’t like to be told what they’re doing wrong, they’d rather be told how they can help.