One of the longer-running arguments my ex-husband and I had was whether or not change comes from someone working within the system, or from outside the system. I always envisioned the illustration of the argument being one of whether or not it’s better to work from inside a fortified city to open the gates via persuasion and education, or if trying to use grappling hooks and rams to force the gates open was the better – more successful – option. I suspect the bias in the envisioning clues you in to which side I (often passionately) argued.
Reading the news this afternoon made me think of that, again, as I read that a GLBTQ activist glitterbombed Michelle Bachmann this weekend. Gingrich and Pawlenty have also been glitterbombed in recent weeks. In all cases, the activists were apparently trying to draw attention to the GOP candidates stance on GLBTQ rights, and in particular the civil right to marriage.
Which leads me to wonder: is there anyone out there who doesn’t know where these people stand on GLBTQ rights?
It’s a rhetorical question, but I’m going to answer it anyways.
Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Gingrich (just to focus on the GOP potentiates who have been glitterbombed) have all been extremely outspoken in their lack of support for GLBTQ rights. They are claiming to be social conservatives who are basing their campaign runs on two major tentpoles of social conservatism: denying GLBTQ couples basic civil rights, including the right to marry, and denying women the right of choice over their own bodies. Their positions are known, in part because they stand on the metaphorical street corner with a bullhorn, shouting as loudly as they can.
So if the activism is not education – and it’s not – then what is it? An attempt for media attention? Trying to humiliate the candidate by covering them in glitter? A misguided attempt to sway other people?
Well, if it’s a strategy to bring media attention to the glitterbombee, it worked. But is this the case that any media coverage is good media coverage? Not really, and that ties in to the other two questions. All media coverage of a candidate being glitterbombed will do is reinforce beliefs on either side of the debate. People who are anti-gay marriage aren’t going to find being covered in glitter humiliating – glitter, believe it or not, has a long and storied life well beyond gay clubs, starting with finger paints and toddlers. These candidates all have kids; they probably all know foolproof ways of rapid deglittering. And covering candidates in glitter is not going to sway voters – it’s going to reinforce positions. Those who are anti-gay will see disrespect, noise, and more proof that “these people are not civilized.” Those who are in favour of civil rights will continue to be in favour of civil rights, and perhaps moderately amused; that’s preaching to the converted, though.
The thing that got me, though, was realizing that these activists – many of them, anyhow – do seem to think that they are making a point and swaying positions. It’s a clash of civilizations beyond what Huntington imagined; The activists seem to see this as an extension of the 80s rallying cry of “we’re here and we’re queer; get used of it.” But Bachmann and her ilk know that gay people exist, and believe it’s a mental disorder that requires curing. They know gay folks are out there, just like they know schizophrenics are out there, and in that particular fundangelical worldview, both are diseases that require treatment and medication to cure. Throwing glitter on someone is not likely to change the impression that being gay is a mental illness that requires treatment.