Meet Combabe Clem: A student activist changing the way we perceive comradeship and popular media content
“I’m French and the English ‘stiff upper lip’ has always bothered me. But for me human relations – which is what solidarity is essentially made of – require physical presence, touch, heat, eye contact, and all that stuff.”
Clementine Boucher isn’t your regular make-up blogger. A soon-to-be graduate from Glodsmiths University, she has translated her love for make-up and socio-economic equality into her YouTube channel: Combabe Clem. Behind every make-up tutorial that she films lies an equally glamorous tutorial on just how to dismantle the capitalist system and establish our own union as student activists fighting for a system change. “Combabe Clem is essentially a project to reclaim YouTube – and social media content more generally – away from the hands of the far right,” Clem says. “The Left is still very much focused on ‘high media’, like academia and written newspapers. But these places are no longer where most of the world’s audience is gathering.”
With an increasing concentration of far-right wing activists on social media and YouTube, Clem felt compelled to create a platform where left-wing activists could come to view light-hearted but tenacious content on politics and makeup.
“The format of my project is important,” Clem continues, “politics and make-up is an unlikely combination but it brings a lot of advantages. My point isn’t to dwell into all the crevasses of a particular topic but to entice people into discovering more. That’s why it’s so important that the format of my channel be entertaining, and the tone of my character be alternatively emotional and light-hearted.”
Many YouTubers have gained fame through lifestyle and make-up videos. Taking the element of appealing to the masses, Clem has created a channel for both “people on the left who are bored of the usual ways of communicating politics, and those who have little interest in politics but could be swayed in a different direction if reached out to in the right way.”
One of the most engaging aspects of her channel is her ability to genuinely connect with the common person, especially a student. Young people are in the throes of a mental health crisis, stemming from issues like climate change, worker’s wage, and a general sense of insecurity and discontent with the current system. On being asked about the impact of the current socio-political system on her mental health, Clem answered, “It has made my depression and anxiety more clear: it’s political.”
A strong proponent of collective care and social organizing as a form of self-care, Clem goes on to say. “Collective action can help change the way care is being delivered. For instance, universities are incredibly underfunded when it comes to mental health support. Same thing for organizations like Rent Strike; we fight for lower rents because we know how much the rising price of uni has directly affected student mental health.”
Besides organizing, Clem also touches on more personal advice for students suffering from mental health issues: finding a passion beyond your activism. “I think you need that balance to not fall into the depressive void of constant war with a hostile system. Finding that balance takes a bit of experience and a lot of self-control, but my other passions remind me what I’m fighting for, and not just what I fight against. That’s invaluable to both one’s mental health and to collective action.”
After spending four years in Bath studying politics, Clem pursued a Masters in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths University. There, she actively participated in organizations like NCAFC and Sisters Uncut. For her, experiencing life as a student strongly shaped the way she perceived social hierarchy and consequently had a positive impact on her activism. “University is where I experienced joy in organising, but also felt the weight of power relations against me, and the violence of a system designed for profit. It’s where I dealt with the regular boredom of organising, the necessity of solidarity, the reality of my own privilege and how I could also perpetuate oppression onto my comrades.”
Although Combabe Clem found its comradeship through YouTube, Clem still remains a bit sceptical about the role of social media in political activism. “I’m starting to almost despise social media. The way it’s structured demands that we make a show out of our political beliefs and actions to build our images up, which leads to non-genuine and ‘low-blow’ politics. I realize it’s a necessary evil for any kind of transmission of ideas, but there’s a real difference between being on social media as an individual and as a collective.”
Combabe Clem is still at its infantile stage and Clem is more than hopeful for its future. With an ever-growing readership and a creative approach to delivering real-world politics, this channel is quite literally setting a new precedent for modern comradeship.
“Hopefully I can keep this up for a few years, take the time to build something great, something impactful. Maybe inspire people to take up the same kind of projects. Politics and traveling? Go for it. Politics and cooking? An awesome idea. I’d love to see every possible iteration of this until YouTube is literally saturated!”