What WikiLeaks Reveals
David Michael Green
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Bang You're Dead
"Cat's Paw" Liability
One Year After
Exploiting U.S. Coal
Angola 3 News
The Real Cost of Prisons
Angola 3 News
Savage Imperialism 2
U.S. Threat to China
Nicolas J.S. Davies
Zaps - 01/11
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"Glee" and Queer Bullying
It's Not Getting Better
Violence," as H. Rap Brown, pointed out, "is as American as apple pie." As alarming and true as this may be, even more so is the reality that Americans don't get that upset about the violence we live with every day. Sure, when a dramatic event like the Columbine shootings happens—and the perpetrators are misfit teenagers—people can become outraged. But this is often not the case, as with the enormous amount of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse that occurs, mostly unreported, on a daily basis. It is interesting, then, that the September 22 suicide of Tyler Clementi received so much press. Clementi, a first-year Rutgers student, was secretly filmed by his roommate kissing another man in the privacy of his dorm room. The roommate then streamed the video on the Internet. The next day Clementi killed himself.
Did America suddenly, collectively, agree that harassing gay teens was bad? Or even a problem? Anyone familiar with the statistics knows that it happens all the time. But the harassment of queer kids has never been high on the media's list of important topics. The February 13, 2010 murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King in Oxnard, California by a male classmate, to whom he had sent a valentine, garnered some news coverage, but, for the most part, anti-gay violence against homosexuals of any age has not been newsworthy until the Clementi suicide, which was then reported in a broader context of other suicides of gay teens from bullying.
All of these led to a flurry of social outrage. Ellen Degeneres summed it up on her show: "Something must be done. This month alone there has been a shocking number of news stories about teens who have been teased and bullied and then committed suicide, like 13-year-old Seth Walsh in Tehachapi, California, Asher Brown, 13, of Cypress, Texas, and 15-year-old Billy Lucas in Greensberg, Indiana. This needs to be a wake-up call to everyone: teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic in this country and the death rate is climbing."
CNN's Anderson Cooper spent hours over the next two weeks on the Clementi suicide, exploring bullying culture in America, especially in regard to queer kids. Such newfound attention is certainly welcome and has prompted other reverberations in the media. But for all of the well-intentioned editorializing, other responses—in particular the YouTube campaign "It Gets Better" and the popular television show "Glee"—have been less direct and even ambiguous.
The Tyler Clementi suicide prompted openly gay Seattle-based columnist Dan Savage and his lover to post a video on YouTube aimed at queer kids. Their message was that no matter how bad things seem now, "it gets better." So don't kill yourself. The original video turned into a campaign and in the past months thousands of people have posted videos telling gay kids to hang in and not harm themselves. Everyone from pop singer Justin Bieber to Barack Obama (as well as hundreds of minor celebrities and average folk) has pleaded with queer kids to wait it out.
"It Gets Better" has a certain power to it. It is impossible not to be moved by the refrain of pain in many of the videos. But the project has two major problems. The first is that sometimes it doesn't get better. The reality is that class, race, poverty, gender presentation, geography, support systems, physical abilities, and a whole host of other issues place all kids at risk. For a lot of teens this combination can be overwhelming and, in the end, it just doesn't get better. Often it gets worse. The second problem is even more serious. As a political organizing tool, It Gets Better fails to urge people to make changes now, to take action to stop the bullying, to find concrete solutions to this problem. Sure, some of the videos urge kids to tell their teachers and their principals to step in if someone is being bullied and that there are places they can get help, but there is no systematic, sustained approach for affecting change. Indeed, the very notion that It Gets Better presumes that change happens through the passage of time, not that you have to work to make it better.
"Glee," a carefully written and produced TV show, chronicles the emotional and musical travails of a high school glee club. It also deals with high school bullying—in particular the bullying of Kurt, an openly gay member of the glee club. In the November shows, the bullying reached such extremes that Kurt faced death threats and had to change schools.
So what could be bad about a hugely popular television show that sympathetically exposes the bullying of an openly gay teen? Actually, a lot. As frightening as the bullying of Kurt is—he is thrown against lockers and violently manhandled—it is important to remember that "Glee" has featured bullying from its pilot episode and almost always for comedy. In its first season, the running joke was that the football team would throw slushies in the faces of glee club members (and anyone else they didn't like). Sue Sylvester—a heterosexual woman who is clearly coded as a butch dyke and played by out lesbian actor Jane Lynch—runs the cheerleading squad and revels in being a bully. It is the hallmark of her character and played for humor.
Watching the first season induced a confusing mix of exhilaration at the wonderful musical numbers with the sheer anxiety of watching emotional and psychological violence played for laughs. If the show had intended this as a narrative ploy to make some political or social point, it would have been excusable. If it was effective, it might have even been brilliant, the way that Artaud's "theater of cruelty" works to jar us and make us think. But, alas, "Glee" used bullying mainly for a punchline.
The suicide of Tyler Clementi seems to have changed this during "Glee's" second season. With so much media focus on the harassment, bullying, and terrorizing of queer teens, the writers developed a story line of Kurt being violently singled out by a football player who is secretly gay and whose stifling life in the closet has turned him into a queer basher. Could this happen? Sure. There are many closeted men whose self-hatred turns to rage that is inflicted on more openly gay people.
But this is simply an easy out for the writers of the show. It does not show us that bullying is, on a profound social level, about power. It is the actions of those who have power—in this case the currency is popularity in high school—to keep and maintain this power by abusing and terrorizing those without it. Having begun by making bullying a joke, "Glee" seems caught in its own hypocritical web. In the show that aired on November 23, a terrified Kurt goes to acting principal Sue Sylvester and looks for help. Even as she says she will do what she can, which is very little it turns out, she repeatedly mocks him by calling him "lady."
You have to feel a bit sorry for the writers of "Glee." They have constructed a clever, popular narrative about the plight of plucky outsiders in the "geeky" glee club who have to survive the torment and abuse of the popular. The trouble is that, like the bullying content, the show's premise is based on a lie.
Many of the most popular glee club members are either football players or cheerleaders. They are already the popular kids in school. So having set up bullying as a joke, the show was boxed into a corner when Clementi, a young talented musician who really would be on the "geek" list in the high school hierarchy, actually did kill himself. The show's writers, attempting to move into the realm of the socially conscious, turned some of Kurt's bullying into a serious story, but did so by making the "heavy" not one of the students who had real power, but a closeted gay kid. The moral? Yeah, gay bashing is really bad, but guess what? It's actually done by gay people.
For all of its trying really hard to make a statement about bullying, "Glee" ends up avoiding saying anything useful about the topic and has instead been forced into grossly misrepresenting the intent and reality of queer bashing and bullying. It's too bad, because a show such as "Glee"—if it handled this material honestly—could actually reach a huge audience. Unfortunately, that audience would probably not want to hear the message that most homophobic bullying is done by heterosexuals to reaffirm their own privilege and power in society. We can hope, as the show evolves this season, that it will change its tune. But given that it is predicated on promoting its own version of high school popularity, it probably won't get better.
Michael Bronski is a senior professor in Women's and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College. His articles have been published in the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, GLQ, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include the current Queer Ideas and Action series (Editor) from Beacon Books, Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps, and An LGBT History of the United States (forthcoming in May).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.