Anyone who logged into Facebook during the last week of March likely saw a huge number of red and pink human rights campaign logos (and many variations) as people changed their profile pictures to show their support for marriage equality. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) urged their followers to upload the symbol the same week the Supreme Court heard two important cases on the subject; California's Proposition 8 and the national Defense of Marriage Act. While this was certainly not the first time that a group or organization attempted to utilize Facebook to drum up support for a cause, the fervor with which this change happened was rather astounding. Facebook released stats on the matter and found that 2.7 million more people changed their profile picture (although they can't say to what exactly) on the day of the second Supreme Court hearing than had done so the week before (a 120% increase). My unofficial and unscientific poll showed a similar thing: I was astounded and moved by the number of my Facebook friends who changed their profile pics. With tears in my eyes I thought, "Maybe there is something to this social media thing!"
You see, I am a bit of a in internet skeptic. It is not that I am afraid or incapable of using technology. I am just leery about how it is being used (to sell people crap they don't need, to make people feel bad about their bodies, to make people addicted to their phones). I get really bothered when I see two people having a meal in a restaurant and both of them are texting or surfing the web on their phones instead of talking to each other. I have been known to refer to memes as the new "opiate of the masses." I try not to roll my eyes when my husband tells me about something he saw on reddit. And too many unfortunate souls have tried to show me something "really cool" on the internet only to be rewarded with a response about how people should probably have something better to do with their time than demean their own pets. (My apologies to all who have been subjected to such rants).
Now, you might be thinking, "but aren't you writing this blog? Isn't that a bit hypocritical?" The truth is that this blog wouldn't exist it if wasn't for my amazing and talented student who created it and others who remind me of all the ways that the internet can be used for good and not evil. So, I have done my best to appreciate the good things that the internet has to offer. This blog is actually a product of a class I taught last year in which we discussed media activism and how facebook, twitter, change.org, etc can be used to promote social change. I know, I know the whole Arab Spring and Occupy Wallstreet thing. I get it. I talk about it. I even kinda believed it. But part of me was still skeptical. Does it really work? If someone sees a petition on their Facebook page and they sign it because they would rather do that than work on whatever they are really supposed to be doing; is that really social change? Even it if does work (and I want to believe it does) does it outweigh all the negatives?
Something changed for me last week. Seeing a sea of red equal signs posted by friends, family and acquaintances from around the country changed something inside me. Maybe my little grinch heart grew two sizes that day....
Now, I have read the critiques of the campaign. I get that HRC is far from perfect (they need to work on their inclusiveness in regards to people of color and transgender individuals). But let's face it, most people didn't change their facebook pic as a sign of support for the HRC as an organization, they changed is as a sign of support for marriage equality. They changed it to show their belief that it is time for this country to change. That discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation is wrong. That everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and to have the right to marry the person they love.
This moment in time has been LONG in coming. I remember being at the pride parade in SLC in 2003 when the Supreme Court decided Lawrence v. Texas, a ruling which made same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory. The celebration and excitement was unbelievable! I remember thinking (with my youthful optimism) that marriage equality would not be far behind. Ten years later, here we are. Only time will tell what the Supreme Court's decision will be. But change is coming. The sheer volume of Americans who said (in pictures and words) that they are ready gives me hope. And maybe some people who needed a little nudge in the right direction saw that sea of red and wondered whether it was time to get on board.
So, I have had a change of heart (at least slightly). I won't stop asking questions or being concerned about Photoshopped models and thongs for 6-year-olds. But at the end of the day, I am willing to do (almost) anything it takes to fight for the dignity of all. Even it that means fighting fire with fire. Or posting stuff on Facebook.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.