A Canvas For Activism

| Essay

A Canvas for Activism - Essay by Joan La for Vegan Good Life Magazine
words_ Joan La
photos_ Eric Mirbach


Inspired by a PETA protest, guest author Joan La gradually turned her personal blog into a platform for digital activism, disguised as a fashion blog. She “used fashion as a way to speak about animal welfare”, but was soon confronted with a constant battle “between resisting superficiality and creating meaningful content”, especially on the blog’s main social media outlet, Instagram. We asked Joan to tell us more about this struggle, one she openly discusses in the captions of her social posts.
Acupofjoan.com was at one time a space for my personal musings and deep, inner thoughts because I’ve always had a need to express myself. The vegan fashion section, now what my entire blog embodies, was sparked by a PETA protest where women carried signs in front of their bare painted bodies to protest animal skin used in fashion. From that day forward, my gradual journey into digital activism for animal rights began. I used fashion as a way to speak about animal welfare, as fashion was an aspect most people overlooked when it came to animal exploitation. Through this fashion blogging journey, I made sure animal activism was at the forefront, while making it a point to steer my fashion posts away from what could easily be shallow and superficial.
“Social Media is a breeding ground
for an entire book of insecurities”
However, as I was promoting vegan fashion by pushing the idea that you can still be creative and wear what you want without contributing to animal suffering, superficiality becomes inevitable and part of the equation when vying for attention in the broader fashion conversation. It is a breeding ground for an entire book of insecurities from body image to self-worth. Then Instagram came along and accelerated the process, the pressure and the insecurities. It made comparing yourself to others so easy. It’s fast-paced, the reward-system (likes and followers) sucks you in so easily and the concentration on image-heavy content, where the written word is diminished to catchphrases and hashtags, brought a whole new level of the superficiality I wanted to get away from.
“It had substance and a cause,
but I felt my purpose flickering”
Not long into this journey, I was already feeling disconnected from my mission. My thoughts on Instagram and blogging soon revolved around how disingenuous it felt to post outfits. Although it had substance and I was doing it for a cause, I felt my purpose was flickering as a result of how I thought I looked in photos, how many likes I got and how many followers I had. I struggled with this feeling for an entire year, back and forth between wanting to quit and keeping my voice alive for the animals. If I were to be completely honest, I had never been into fashion enough to start a fashion blog. Don’t get me wrong – I have always appreciated how I am able to express myself through what I wear, but I just never felt compelled to share it with the world. It is only with the purpose of activism that I was able to jump into it. Creativity always stems from something emotional for me so it only made sense that I was attracted to it on the account of veganism. I am drawn to anything that tells a story, and by creating content through my fashion posts I am able to do that.

A Canvas for Activism - Essay by Joan La for Vegan Good Life Magazine

If I wanted to be a voice for the animals while continuing to do what I love – creating content – but I needed to find a balance to calm the constant battle I was having between resisting superficiality and creating something meaningful. So what first started as a way to showcase ethical fashion, translated into a journey of self-acceptance. It became unavoidable when I was using my body as a canvas for activism, and that in itself releases a complex set of emotions and perceptions. That was the lightbulb. I was putting myself out there by using my own body and self to promote something, and that meant not only was I more so than struggling with the the idea of being superficial, I was struggling with self-worth. And what’s more; I was utilizing my body as a canvas for my work, which enabled others to essentially objectifying me – which is exactly what we as a society do to animals. So how could I balance that out, how could I still help promote the notion of loving all beings but also work against the toxic side effects of social media work?
“What started as a showcase for ethical fashion
translated in a journey of self-acceptance”
So instead of me diving into a rabbit hole, my platform additionally needed to become a space where I could further explore self-love. This was the way I figured I would overcome it. Through a platform (Instagram) that could easily be toxic to any woman or anybody at all, it is easy to stumble into a pitfall. I realized that expressing myself in the most genuine way is what I feel best doing, so instead of fighting a battle I’ll lose, I’m accepting myself by expressing who I am wholeheartedly. This way, I can wear the clothes I want to wear without judgment around what fashion might represent and instead define it for myself.
“If you’re not comfortable in your own skin,
you won’t be comfortable in your own clothes.”
In conclusion, Everyone’s journey is different, but no matter the path we should all unapologetically be ourselves. We should feel free to use our bodies and minds as a form of activism or expression in whatever way we see fit. In my case, I choose every day to promote animal activism, self-love, and to speak out on all the other issues I’m passionate about such as civil rights and human rights. Iris Apfel said it best:

Having a presence on social media or creating content on a blog gives us a voice and allows representation of ourselves in any way that we desire; we just have to truly accept and love ourselves first.”
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