Davina Kotulski

FCKH8: A good idea for a good cause?

Filed By Davina Kotulski | January 07, 2011 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: child exploitation, FCKH8, queer kids, Trevor Project

Is having children yell "fuck you" to people who are against gay marriage on recorded video exploitative of children?

Is it helpful to our cause?

Should LGBT youth organizations accept money from organizations or individuals who publicly promote under age youth using profanity and hatred?FCKH8-shirt.jpg

Is FCKH8 a hate group?

Is it hypocritical for a group to be against hate and use hateful speech and body language?

What value does FCKH8 really bring to the cause of LGBT equality?

Do non-profits really need their money?

Is this really a "good idea for a good cause" as "charity crusader" Luke Montgomery says?

These are all the questions that ran through my head when I received an e-mail about FCKH8 and watched the video.

FCK BULLIES by FCKH8.com: DON'T B H8N ON THE HOMOS! from FCKH8.com on Vimeo.

The National Organization of Marriage, which was recently deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is now using this video to raise money for its cause, taking away our rights. And FCKH8 is raising money through T-shirt sales and giving it to The Trevor Project and Courage Campaign to name just a few organizations. I spoke with the media spokesperson for Trevor Project and asked about their affiliation with FCKH8. She said that they are not affiliated with FCKH8, but are accepting their donations. What kinds of donations do you not accept? I asked. She said "They don't accept donations that exploit children." So my question again is "having children yell 'fuck you' to people who are against gay marriage on recorded video exploitative of children?" Should Trevor Project come out with a public statement about FCKH8? Do we change hearts and minds by flipping people off and saying "fuck you?" Dan Savage's It Gets Better and the Make it Better project which was inspired from it went viral and made a positive difference. FCKH8 seems to have gone viral too as there are a bunch of kids posting to youtube their own FCKU videos. My thoughts-I think these videos are stupid. I think having children in them saying "fuck you" is irresponsible parenting and marketing. I think that this approach is not useful to our cause. It's like the gay version of Fred Phelps on video. I think in the worst case it's detrimental to our causes, but hey anyone can make a video and post it these days. I am a donor to the Trevor Project and I think the Trevor Project accepting donations from an organization that raises money with videos advertising a product with kids swearing is poor judgment. Where does the buck stop?

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Rick Sutton | January 7, 2011 12:38 PM

I'm guess I'm old-school of the first order, but:

Hateful words, and hateful tones of voice, do tremendous damage to young folks all the time. They simply don't havhe the depth of life experiences, to properly filter the offensive words.

Why would we tolerate those hateful words, even if twisted to "help" our "cause" ?

And yes, the eff bomb is a hateful word. If you doubt that, just listen to its use for a week, chronicle the usage, and tell me how many times it was used politely or helpfully.

Can't we just have a bake sale or something? Or a benefit show?

That said, a dear friend of mine and I traded t-shirt ideas for a long time, til his unfortunate death last month. Among our faves:

"I told you I was sick"
WC Fields tombstone

"Santa, I can explain"

"Turn and cough"

(Under a picture of George W. Bush)"Some village in Texas has lost its idiot."

Do we really have to resort to foul language to raise money, and if so, what kind of message does tht send?

I agree... having children say "fuck you" just gives ammo to right-wingers who say GLBTQ people are bad parents. I'm the single parent of a teen and I wouldn't let her post expletives on a widely distributed video like this. It's unnecessary, it's not more powerful than using thoughtful speech and I don't buy that's it's somehow liberating and queer-positive (as I've heard people say defending it) having them do it. Nor do I think suggesting children have no business yelling expletives on activist promo pieces is in any way supporting "heteronormativity."

A. with mixed feelings on this | January 7, 2011 1:07 PM

is it useful?

i would love.... to get some of those t-shirts, especially for my daughter- but the place that it most needs to be worn- her highschool....they have rules.
even the chicks marry chicks tshirt - has f*ckh8 on it
no way, ever, she could wear it...

is it appropriate? I love the attitude to some extent, and i feel it is the parents decision concerning their children as to whether they should participate in the ad campaign, but i can tell you, respectful, polite children make a much more positive impression
many already assume people they label "deviants" arent good parents, or raising good kids, and an angry expletive shouting little kid...??? hmmm.

a hate group? I dont think so. They are hating...on hate.

Well, to be fair, the LGB(and sometimes T, though they have wider interests than just this) movement is pretty much built around being able to publicly acknowledge our fucking in a variety of ways without negative repercussions.

Decriminalizing sodomy? Now we get to screw the way we want to!
Delisting homosexuality as a mental disorder? Now people can't say we're sick for banging who we want to bang!
Support for gay marriage? Now our pounding has federally-recognized and economically beneficial legitimacy!
(I could keep going, but I'm running out of euphemisms for sex and I don't want to say fuck too many times in this post.)

There is something really liberating about being able to say "Fuck you!" to the people that would have us be ashamed of ourselves. Yes it's dismissive and a little hateful of those groups, but very satisfying. It's the same kind of logic behind the queer separatist movements from the days of the GLF to Queer Nation to whatever groups are applicable today (I thought about including Against Equality but I'm not sure how Yasmin and R Conrad would feel about a queer separatist label, so I'll leave that to them).

As for the "exploitation of children" issue, unless their parents/the FCKH8 campaign's representatives/any people in a position of power over them forced or coerced or pressured the kids into doing it, I don't think it can be called exploitative. Saying "fuck" certainly isn't damaging to kids in and of itself; they do it all the time without suffering severe psychological trauma. Just behind your back if you think they don't.

Now, can having kids on video supporting LGBT rights saying "fuck you" be used by right-wingers as proof that we're bad parents? Yeah. But doesn't that open up a meaningful dialogue about standards of parenting in this country? I mean when you really think about it deep down, what is so horrible about kids knowing how to cuss if they can also exercise discretion about when to cuss and at whom to cuss?
It's like when the right-wingers said "THEY'RE TEACHING OUR KIDS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY" for the whole Yes on 8 campaign. Instead of sniveling and going, "Oh, no we're not, we would never do that!" in ad campaigns like we did, we should have said, "So? What's wrong with that?"
You expose crazy arguments a lot better if you grill them about their claims rather than just denying them.

I support FCKH8. The delivery of the message isn't for everyone, but isn't that sort of the point?

I feel pretty similarly to Meredith. Asking queer folks and their families to protest or be activist "in the right way" feels too close to parts of the "movement" that want the queer community to hide the drag queens, chaps and sex positive dinner conversation so that the "mainstream community" will accept us.

I understand that you might personally not find the campaign effective -- and to be honest there are an awful lot of "fucks" in their videos to the point where I wonder if they lose their impact -- but I can see what they're trying to do.

I thought this was a bit more sharp (video mash up with Lily Allen's song): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03PnU27cWDs

Sort of off-topic, when I encounter folks who have difficulty with cursing/expletives, I always want to quote a bit from Nicole Blackman's "Daughter" ...

"one day i'll give birth to a tiny baby girl / and when she's born she'll scream and i'll make sure she never stops. ... i'll tell her to say FUCK like people say THE / and when people are shocked to ask them why they so fear a small quartet of letters."


I find it questionable why children should hold such vehement opinions about a bill which has questionable impact in their life decisions (unless they have two parents of the same-sex).

While I don't advocate for profanity as a means to an end, I think it would be more productive to strengthen campaigns toward anti-bullying and hate crime legislation as well as better education and awareness of tolerance for sexual diversity.

Marriage equality is relatively low on the totem poll for today's children. Safety and security for American youth should always be NUMBER ONE before marriage. Otherwise our priorities are completely askew.


Paige Listerud | January 7, 2011 3:37 PM

Is having children say the F word in a PSA or wear T-shirts with the FCKH8 exploitative when they hear that language and use it every day on the playground? And probably in their homes?

I say, it's bizarre to witness Victorian preciousness rear its ugly head among LGBTQ writers and pundits. So now we need to "save the children" from the FCKH8 campaign? Is it really about saving the children, Davina, or is it more like "these kids make me look bad in front of the straight people"?

Newsflash, respectable lesbian, to homophobic straight people, no matter how middle class and polite you try to present yourself, you still look like a deviant rugmuncher teaming with lesbian cooties to the religious right. A 10 year-old in a T-shirt will not sway the balance one way or the other. You could save a child from poverty by adopting it, raise it to be a responsible, caring adult, teach it to always speak respectfully, and they'd still reach out with grasping hands to "save" that child from your abominableness.

So, as to kids saying "fuck" in defense of LGBTQ equality--call me a jaded activist, but I've heard lesbians say, "Fuck patriarchy," gays say "Fuck you, world, I'm gay," bisexuals say "Fuck your biphobia" and transpeople--well, I'm sure they've said "fuck" somewhere in their campaigns, I just haven't been there to hear it. "Fuck" is all over the community--verbally and literally and I don't hear the adults slowing down or begging pardon for their French, so what makes you think kids will be any better? And you're saying the kids make us look bad?

If anything, be consistent. If it's so offensive to you, take part in a whole purity campaign against foul language in the LGBTQ community. Or you could realize, like Lenny Bruce, that words only have the power you give them.

As for me, since I already know that kids are saying "fuck you" to each other on the playground, I'd rather have them say "fuck hate" whenever they witness anti-queer bullying and violence. They don't have to be polite about that and they may just save a life.


Is there no difference between saying "fuck" on the playground (which kids certainly do) and saying it over the Internet in a nationally distributed and highly linked PR campaign? No, a parent being okay with their child saying fuck doesn't mean they're a bad parent, but aren't there better ways of expressing what's wrong with hate than using the 'humor' of fuck coming out of a kid's mouth. This is exploiting children just as presenting children in a highly sexualized manner exploits children and having stupid tv shows where the precocious kiddie tells off dumb daddy is exploiting children.

And, IMO, an atmosphere where little kids are getting laughs spouting 'fuck' over the Internet is more likely to result in an ultimate acceptance of bullying and mouthing off than one which on some level models civility and thoughtful speech. I know there are a lot of people who might disagree with me on that.

Paige Listerud | January 7, 2011 6:32 PM

So far as the exploitation of children goes, I hold with Meredith that it's only exploitation when kids are being forced by adults to say "fuck" on camera or to express views that they do not have. I'm open to hearing what FCKH8's recruitment policy is for getting their child performers--if they're pushing them to do something they don't like or don't agree with, we need to know about that. But IMHO, that's the only thing FCKH8 needs to be evaluated on.

Other than that kind of issue, save your concern for child exploitation for sex trafficking or abuse of kids in the entertainment industry or sweatshop child labor in 3rd World countries. Being allowed to say the F word is miniscule compared to real pain and suffering forced on children.

In so far as lack of civility goes, the horses have long since escaped from the barn on that one. My recommendation to Davina still holds--start with the adults. The adults--LGBTQ and straight--are the foulmouthed motherfuckers. Get them to be more civil and the kids will follow.

I'm still out on this topic. On hand, I find the fuck hate videos to be extremely cathartic, and catharsis is a very powerful and useful tool to relieve pent up aggression.

On the other, I just find the whole fuck hate campaign to be just a bit... well, pointless. So they want to raise money? OK, well, lets give money directly to charities that we find worthy.

The videos, the clothing, the calendars, they are all quite amusing. But I don't find the plight of the current LGBT movement to be all that amusing.

They recently did a calendar which featured all straight men in support of gay rights. Oh, and they were essentially naked. And hyper-sexualized. Because straight men are always hawt and all. I wrote about it on my blog, if you want to check it out, but it's pretty much along this same lines as this article.

I feel like I shouldn't be against Fck H8, and in general I'm not, but I just don't get the whole point.

Rick Sutton | January 7, 2011 8:52 PM

Paige, your passion is fantastic.

Your logic, however, is immature.

Victorian? Hardly. Consistent? Damned straight.

If we expect our kids to behave properly, we have to set some boundaries. The eff word on t-shirts is just tasteless. Period.

Perhaps it's just me, but these FCKH8 ads seem to be about more than gay marriage.

In my opinion gay activism is not supposed to be about changing our community in order to be more acceptable to the mainstream. Gay activism is not about being careful or being acceptable or treading lightly. It's about changing the world so that we can be accepted as we are. It's about opening eyes, minds, and hearts.

The gay community - we're a snarky bunch when we get together. Honestly, have you ever been to a Pride parade? This is our attitude, our courage. This is our expression.

Perhaps its going to take a little longer than we were all planning on for us to get that sort of acceptance. It's certainly going to take a very long time if we can't even find it in our own community. I'm OK with that, though, if it doesn't mean censoring the catty, outrageous, wild (sometimes bitchy) community that we are.

Regarding the children - I'm pretty damn sure those kids in that video know what they're saying.

Leave the quieter, more acceptable delivery of our message to the gay politicians. I applaud them for it. But don't try to take the attitude away from gay activists. That attitude is our spirit.

Sister Mary FP | January 8, 2011 12:28 AM

No, Maybe, What hatred?, No, No, Laughter, Yes.

(I, for one, did not see hate expressed, I saw anger.)

Thanks everyone for weighing in. Paige I don't hold FCKH8 as accountable for how I appear to straight people. In fact, I'n less concerned with how the religious right views me than the "anything goes" approach that sometimes comes from our LGBT community because we've been marginalized around our "sexuality" or who we love and are romantically attracted to and physically intimate with. In my opinion, FCKH8 goes too far with the kids.

Thank you so much for posting this. I hadn't heard of the FCKH8 campaign. This is exactly what I needed. My momma always said "Be who you are and if somebody don't like it fuck them". Finally someone is speaking my language.

I have yet to see any criticism of FCKH8 that doesn't amount to neo-Mattachine hand wringing to the effect of, "You're only allowed to speak up in terms that we approve of! We get to decide where to draw the line between constructive anger and destructive hate, you shut up and heed your betters!"