Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queer Flash Mob!

Okay, so there has been some discussion on the event page for the Flash Mob about the effectiveness of this planned action, and I wanted to open up the discussion here. A few people have questioned the effectiveness of using PDA as a means of legitimizing queer sexualities and relationships. Below are my thoughts on the matter, and I'd love to hear what anyone else has to say about it! I'm glad this is provoking discussion and critical thought and I really appreciate the feedback! I'll first include some details about what exactly this mysterious queer flash mob thing is.

First things first: the definition of the word "queer". For the intents and purposes of this event, queer is not your sexual orientation but your approach to sexuality. Heterosexual people can be queer. It just means that you prioritize open communication, consent, respect for yourself and your partner, and that you resist gender norms and patriarchal/heteronormative approaches to sex.

A FLASH MOB is when a group of people suddenly perform a synchronized action (like a dance routine or a flash-freeze) in a public setting for a short period of time. Here is an example:

At class change on Cougar Mall we are going to get a large number of people who are paired off into couples (hetero/homo/whatevs) to make out, hold hands, sit in each others laps, suck each others toes, pet each other, WHATEVER (yay!) for 2 or so minutes. Then we all walk away like at the end of the video. This event is meant to increase queer visibility on campus, normalize all types of relationships, and to have fun!

Here is one of the challenges to this idea: "because PDA itself has such a stigma, i feel like using it to try to normalize queer relations won't be really effective. i mean, fun for sure, but not effective. and hand-holding, while it definitely says, "hey, these two people totally have more than just a casual friendship!" to most people, is also kind of ambiguous, and a flash-mob of hand-holding seems like it doesn't entirely get the point across, or might not even be noticeable. the tricky part is finding an activity that isn't offensive in and of itself to most people, but would still get noticed. i'm not sure, but maybe cuddling would work? cuddling is pretty innocent, but it still conveys intimacy."

and another: "If the two main arguments AGAINST 'queer' relationships being a-ok are as follows
1. It is a sin, as denoted by faith in a particularly stringent religion
2. It is 'icky', as denoted by people who carry a latent dislike of homosexual encounters for other reasons
having a mass demonstration of either 1. a 'sin' or 2. a 'gross behavior' will do nothing for those that dislike the lifestyle other than demonstrate who they know that partakes in it
I am just concerned about the efficacy of this action. I mean, if you just wanna make out with a bunch of people, you don't need to hide it under a 'protest'!"

Relevant and lovely feedback! Here is what I have to say about this:

PDA could certianly be an immediate turnoff. Who hasn’t wanted to shout “get a room” to some gross couple before? However, there are a few key things I am thinking of when I think about the effectiveness of our planned approach. I have felt, and I can only speak for myself, that it is less okay for a same-sex couple to be affectionate in public. I’ve been in the situation with guys and girls, and I always feel a little bit on edge when it’s with a girl. There’s part of me that’s waiting for some kind of negative reactionary response, or just feels like I am being watched. And every once in a while I have gotten inappropriate responses, especially at night or in a casual social situation like a bar. It feels uncomfortable, and can feel shitty and intimidating, especially when there's no one to back you up. I think it will be affirming for me to be able to express my affection for another woman in public with a lot of supportive people around who are also out there asserting the legitimacy of their relationships and sexualities. So, maybe some of the effectiveness of this action is for the people in the mob, not just the people watching. But I think that by reaffirming the legitimacy of all romantic relationships and normalizing all configurations of relationships, we’ll also be sending the message that whatever you dig is okay and deserves a place to be recognized publicly. Hetero couples are constantly reaffirmed in this way. We are always presented “romantic” or “cute” images of hetero couples in the media and out in public, and while I think it’s great for that particular type of relationship to be affirmed, it’s not great that we are presented only with that model. A certain level of PDA is acceptable generally in our society, especially among younger people, and while our point is not “hey, we should have the right to mack in public just like the rest of the world”, I think that to say it’s not okay to have public representations of queer sexualities (being expressed in a respectful way, as with any sexuality) is unfair.
As far as nuts and bolts go, our top priority is the mobbers’ comfort. We want everyone to feel safe and supported, so any type of interaction people feel comfortable having in public is what we want them to do—and yeah, the holding hands thing might be subtle, that’s okay. Some people will be hugging/cuddling and that’s great too. And some people will be heartily sucking face, and yeah, maybe that’s a little gross, but if we are focused on it being gross because it’s PDA and not because it’s two girls or two guys or two what-the-hell-are-you-anyways, then we’re still getting the point, aren’t we? If some people are so reactive to two people kissing that they can’t think critically about the situation, then in my opinion that’s a casualty of the type of theatrical, in-your-face activism we are doing here. If no one at all who sees it gets it, but the people in the mob feel affirmed and supported, that’s good enough for me. You may not agree, and that’s good—if you have an idea that you think would get the point across better I’d love to hear it and support it. The more activism the better, there is certainly no one right way!


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