R Conrad

New Trinkets from the Against Equality Collective!

Filed By R Conrad | December 19, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Against Equality, FCKH8, gay marriage

The sassy folks at the Against Equality collective are always looking for new ways to create time and space to have critical dialog about the direction the gay and lesbian movement is headed. This month we have released a new set of 1" buttons that bring together the retro 80's design from Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign and the Silence=Death Project's (later to become the art and design collective Gran Fury) iconic "silence=death" logo that was later adopted by ACT UP. A third button of our own "greater than" logo rounds out the collection of newly available trinkets to adorn your most flagrant pair of hot pants.

Unlike the FCKH8 campaign, we don't think you can buy (or swear) your way to a more just world. I also wouldn't make the assertion that gay kids kill themselves because they can't join the army like they do either, but that's a whole other story! These trinkets are just a small gesture towards breaking the silent spectacle of consent that all LGBTQ folks think marriage, the military and the prison system are places where our movement should be putting our time energy and money.


To get your buttons click here!

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"Marriage=Death". Staying classy, I see.

Kathy Padilla | December 19, 2010 12:59 PM

Perhaps he's met my ex?

I wonder what the vig is on these trinkets.

"My least favorite word -- 'equality.' I want freedom and liberty for all not equality."

-- Recent tweet by GOProud Chairman Christopher Barron

Funny how much you guys have in common...

I think the "Marriage = Death" one is incredibly inappropriate. Shame on Against Equality for misappropriating a symbol of the outrage at the governmental and religious denial of the suffering of millions of people during the height of the AIDS epidemic to make a divisive political statement about whether or not the movement should be concerned with equal marriage rights.

I can respect you disagreeing with the institution of marriage, but I can't respect that particular handling of it.

Agreed. That one seemed particularly inappropriate. I can agree with the message but not that messenger.

gay marriage = death of the queer political imagination

i don't see anything inappropriate about that graphic considering the lineage of act up and gran fury encourages us to imagine a world where everyone's health care needs are met, not just those who are married.

basically, gay inc gets away with saying only married people should be allowed to live and no one finds that inappropriate, ahistorical, or down right fucked up?

come. on. now. keep yr shame too yourself.

I think you're stretching that argument quite a bit to justify it. I've heard good arguments that gay marriage does represent the death of the queer political imagination, but you're shamelessly aping a symbol of ACT UP, whose fight was very much life or death, to make a statement about how you don't think anyone should get married.

No one but you, in your attempt to justify it, is going to interpret this button the way you just explained it to us. People are going to interpret this as "gay marriage kills people," and I think that's far too much of a stretch even from your argument about health care benefits (which don't apply to all marriages anyway, because not everyone who's married has a job that gives them health care benefits, lets alone benefits for their spouses).

To Meredith: No one interpreted Silence = Death in its exact meaning when they saw the image - they still don't; people still have to be reminded of what kind of silence means death. Most people actually think that AIDS is over as a crisis.

Let's not forget that this is doing what agitprop is supposed to do - make people think, argue and ask questions. And in the rush to make judgmnets about taste and appropriation, let's not freeze ACT UP/ Gran Fury under plexiglass and forget how deeply controversial they were. The symbol of ACT UP was a symbol of the holocaust, and that idea is still controversial. But it's what made people pay attention.

I think the "Marriage = Death" button is hilarious -- and I'm going to order a few!

Comparing marriage to the AIDS epidemic is in league with PETA comparing slaughterhouses with Auschwitz. It's cheap, exploitative and tasteless, and a great example of the lack of political imagination of which you speak.

Refusing to tolerate and accept legally mandated discrimination against GLBT people, as the radical queers are very proud to do, is independent of whether one supports universal health care. Believe it or not, one can very easily support marriage equality AND universal health care, even at the same time. WOW!!!!

And last time I checked, none of the Gay Inc. organizations even came close to saying anything that could be inferred as meaning only married people should be allowed to live.

If there was a like button on this comment, I'd hit it a few dozen times.

This might be a good time for us all to remember that the original ACT UP slogan Silence = Death was hardly uncontroversial in its time. And that it incited discussion about the appropriateness of using a symbol of the holocaust in AIDS discourse. ACT UP is now fetishized as the mother of all queer radical activism, but in fact its tactics and imagery were controversial at the time and not well liked by many queers.

As for "misappropriation," that is in fact one of the hallmarks of queer artistic production especially the kind used to throw a spanner in the works of a mainstream gay movement that, as Ryan points out, blatantly dehistoricises queer politics and history and insists that only married people should be allowed to live (via its insistence that insurance through marriage is both desirable and perfectly okay, or that it's fine to support the army as a tool of economic mobility etc.).

Yasmin, your history is exactly right (as I remember it, 'cause I'm an old fart and I was there!) ... in fact, some criticized the ACT-UP radicals for their uncivilized tactics, but others appreciated that they were the crazy fringe wackos, who in turn empowered the more reserved, more conventional gay/lesbian lobbyists in "the suits" as being serious-minded and reasonable. And that mechanism goes far to explain how AIDS era milestones such as the Ryan White CARE Act got passed.

Thanks, A.J. And all this prompts me to
a)go back to all that early material and history of ACT UP from the time period and
b)write and/or mull over something regarding queer artistic production, especially in light of the recent Wojnarowicz exhibit controversy - which has now become yet another easily caricatured story about the goodies and the baddies of the art world.

My biggest concern here is that the very name of the group is about what they are against. And identity that voices only what it is not and what it does not want. I would rather see the focus and the identity and name about what the group wants to achieve not what it wants to stop and block.
It just it not a persuasive approach to communication.

I'm curious - have you read the book? Or even the many essays, by a vast range of people who fight for change on a daily level and in a million different ways, on the website?

There are many groups like Human Rights Campaign and GetEqual, which have the name of what they'd like to achieve right there in their name. All they do is pay their executive directors fat salaries to appear on the news and make cooing noises about equality. But a lot of even mainstream LGBTs have long voiced their opinion that they haven't done a damn thing. Whose human rights and what human rights does HRC fight for? What, exactly, is the difference between GetEqual and HRC in that regard? What meaning do "human rights" and "equal" have in their names given how little they achieve - according to a lot of people on this very site, even?

No actually I haven't. The name itself put me right off having any interest in finding out more about them as an organization. When an organization chooses controversy and shock as an identity they will have to accept that there will be negative reactions to them.
I have, through the years come to respect your own take on things and have found myself in agreement with you a significant portion of the time. As for R Conrad I occasionally find myself agreeing with his material in principle but his approach often puts me off.
There certainly are many groups who have good names and are really just pulling a train of crap that could fertilize the Sinai. HRC being the flagship and it has often gotten my very verbal negative attention. But I was not at all making any comparisons between these groups, I don't feel qualified. I feel that I know enough about HRC to realize how much I hate the organization, as for GetEqual, well I don't think that there is enough available to know about them anyway. As for Against Equality, I don't know anything about them and with their name and these buttons being considered I had no interest in learning anything about them. Is there something that I should know about them?

Only enough to make an informed judgment. I've found you one of the more thoughtful commenters, so it surprises me no end to find a comment like that coming from you, that's all.
And I agree with you on the train of crap.

Honestly without a serious recommendation I had no reason to look into the organization which was why I confined my comments to what I knew about them which was that the name was off putting. On your advice I will visit the site and read a random selection of material.

do people really believe that prioritization of gay marriage in gay and lesbian politics over the last 15 years hasn't been responsible for the closing of numerous LGBTQ youth programs through the concentration of funding and resources in the hands of very few single issue gay marriage and DADT-related orgs? (rich are getting richer, poor are getting poorer)

so if you step back and think about, gay inc actually does kill people.

and point of clarification. no one that has been a part of a.e. gives a damn if you want to get married or not. you want to have your big fat gay wedding, knock yourself out, we really don't care. our critique isn't about YOU (sorry to inform you but you aren't the center of our universe) but about systemic and structural violence.

R Conrad, here is my confusion. From the name and the buttons at first glance there is nothing there to inform me about the organization. There is nothing there that tells me what AE wants to accomplish.
What I see is an attack upon an issue. So at first glance it appears to be focused on a particular issue.Frankly, it is an issue that I am tired of seeing everyone focus on to the exclusion of other issues.
I have long tilted at the Gay Inc windmills myself. I never miss a chance to call out HRC, GLAAD, nGLtf, GLSen or any of that ilk. I will look at the AE site because someone whom I respect recommended it. But until that moment there was nothing in the name or buttons to attract me or to recommend the organization to me or to intimate in any way that I may have some goals that are represented by AE and that I should look into that. Please don't read any of my observations as supporting these over-full organizational ticks sucking the blood from our backsides.
Some people have their curiosity piqued by the presentation of a face that seems to go for shock and general obfuscation. Others of us are simply repelled and will look elsewhere.
Some questions; if your critique is not about marriage or individuals getting married why is it being presented in a way that gives it that appearance and then why would you act put out that people would take things at face value? Is there an assumption on your part that the uninformed about your organization are automatically on another side in these issues?
An observation; if one wants an issue to become irrelevant or to become properly relative to other issues and lose a sense of extreme prominence among issues it would seem to me that the issue should not be trotted out like the prize pony in the show. The appearance of the name and the buttons does make it seem that your arguments are framed against a starting point of the issue of equal access to marriage thus reinforcing it as the issue of prominence relative to which all other issues are measured for importance. If we wish the issue to stop being the standard of perception then we ourselves have to stop speaking and measuring relative to it.


Ryan can address this as well if he wants to but, come on, seriously, please don't post these long questioning posts that keep demonstrating that you can't be bothered to read either our work or our comments.

"The appearance of the name and the buttons does make it seem that your arguments are framed against a starting point of the issue of equal access to marriage thus reinforcing it as the issue of prominence relative to which all other issues are measured for importance." Um. Yes, exactly. Who among us has denied that? That's why we're called "Against Equality." Clearly, we have succeeded spectacularly in articulating our politics with our simple name and fabulous graphics; thanks for confirming that.

Silence=Death and even "ACT UP" had the same effects. Looking at the names, who would know what the any of that meant? And yet, we now understand the long-term history of such movements. The responsibility of a group is to its ethos, its commitment to a certain politics, not to worry about offending people. "Some people have their curiosity piqued by the presentation of a face that seems to go for shock and general obfuscation. Others of us are simply repelled and will look elsewhere." Fine, then, go ahead. But why on earth would you expect a member of a group to engage with you endlessly on points that you can't be bothered to educate yourself on first?

For the record, no one in AE is concerned about "perception" in the way you articulate it. If we'd had been, we'd hardly have chosen our name or the graphics. We're doing fantastically well in terms of reception and in building a grassroots movement, all of which you'd know about if you bothered to do more than record your repulsion. Yet, you seem to think that we would actually worry that people might think we're...against marriage?

Seriously? You don't know that we're against the institution of marriage for a million reasons and you think we'd worry that people might think we are? To echo Ryan, "no one that has been a part of a.e. gives a damn if you want to get married or not. you want to have your big fat gay wedding, knock yourself out, we really don't care. our critique isn't about YOU (sorry to inform you but you aren't the center of our universe) but about systemic and structural violence."

Do a search of our names or "against equality" on TBP alone, at the very least. This post is not about explaining AE's politics - which we've done a million times before. It's a promotion of our latest stuff.

Buy some. It's all incredibly cute and snazzy.

Maybe I will since I like buttons and things.
As I said I will sit down and read through some stuff on the site I bookmarked it and plane on spending some time this evening on it.
Thanks for taking the time to address this stuff.