On Wednesday morning, printouts of individual and group profiles from facebook.com completely covered the designated boards on Cross Campus and Old Campus. Many had been torn down by mid-afternoon. On each poster, allegedly homophobic or misogynistic statements that had been included by the owner of the profile were visibly circled. To accompany the blatantly corrective aesthetic of the red circle, handwritten words corresponding to the content of the circled passage offered only firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or, in a few of the cases, both, for an explanation.
The posters primarily evoke disgust. The depicted profiles confirm the existence of numerous students on this campus who not only find it acceptable to use phrases like “Cubs fans are f–ing homos,” “Your luck is so bad, if it was raining whores outside you’d get hit by a queer,” “I’m not a f–ing homo,” “Stuff Her Good and Proper, Chap,” “Here’s to lesbians and virgins, thanks for nothing” and “This town is so gay,” but who actually consider such statements to be crucial to include in their personal profiles. I suppose it is only reasonable that a Yale student would feel the need to assert that “Punters are homos” to adequately express his sense of self. As the posters revealed, some Yalies initiate or join groups such as “I’m a masculinist. Deal. OR ELSE” to best exemplify their personalities.
The posters also seemed to shock passerby. Perhaps the apparent aggressiveness of their presentation — stapled over all other papers on the main boards — rubbed some people the wrong way. It is, after all, highly controversial that the posters made no effort to cover the names or pictures on the profiles, though the lack of censorship reinforces the unaltered nature of the profiles. A quick check online can confirm that none of the profiles’ homophobic or misogynistic content was fabricated or taken out of context.
Perhaps what angered people about such a project was its confrontational manner of both reminding us that thefacebook.com is not a private sphere — profiles are accessible to anyone at Yale — and proposing a belligerent alternative to the “let’s play nice” model for feminists and queer activists that prevails on this campus. It challenged the consensus-based image of social justice, espoused in many so-called “liberal” circles, that dismisses militant protest as necessarily uninformed and any expression of anger as “irrational.”
Though the anti-homophobia/anti-misogyny poster project seemed to represent a strategic and self-conscious radicalism, even those of us inclined to support well-planned direct action could question the effectiveness of an activist project that limits itself to the spaces already designated for advertisement and statement-making. It would seem logical to utterly inundate the campus if the goal is to make a radical political statement. By relegating itself to these specific spaces, the project was more subtle than it seemed offhand, to the point where it is difficult to determine what it actually accomplished. Clearly, its agenda incorporated an indictment of a particular male homosocial culture that is relatively inseparable from the fraternities with which many of the cited groups and individuals were affiliated. The posters also admonished the individuals who comprise such a culture by refusing to excuse the specific bigotries and ignorance each articulated.
Ranging from unanimously classifiable misogynistic or homophobic remarks to relatively ambiguous uses of the persistent (and less clairvoyantly offensive) “my roommate is gay, haha” jokes, the breadth of profiles implies that the project aimed above all else to provoke thought and spark discourse about what it means to be homophobic or misogynistic. The inclusion of viable e-mail addresses on each poster indicates not a need to proclaim absolute judgment but a willingness and active desire to foster dialogue that could contribute significantly to discussions of LGBT life on campus.
Ultimately, the posters aptly illustrated the culture of misogyny and homophobia at Yale — or, rather, they brought to light, outside cyberspace, the ignorant or hateful words that Yalies had already coined to describe themselves. The posters did not battle amorphous, intangible attitudes towards women and LGBT individuals, but attitudes that have been explicitly prioritized and made public.
Regardless of the multiple flaws and controversies of this genre of radical-activism-meets-performance-art, such instances of direct action instill hope that the LGBT and feminist communities will be able to expend less energy convincing people that there is a definitive problem and more energy getting to the root of it.
Loren Krywanczyk is a senior in Silliman College. He is the former coordinator of the LGBT Co-Op.