A Critical Response To The Coalition For Equal Marriage’s New Video

So i’m assuming many of you will have come across the Coalition for Equal Marriage and their newly released video, for those who have not seen it, find it below!


Now I think its important to stress that equal marriage is an issue of equality that has been fought for by members of the LGBTQ community. It is also one that has had a right-wing backlash and caused anti-LGBTQ groups to desperately send out the word that ‘gay marriage’ must be stopped. The calls by prominent Catholic and Church of England figures, along with recent efforts to encourge children in catholic schools to sign a petition against gay marraige has created a political landscape to the demand for gay marriage, that has powerful and wealthy religious institutions and political forces set against us.It is with that consideration that I stress my utmost solidarity in fighting against these reactionary and devastating ideas.

However, I have some serious criticisms of this video and the way in which they have decided to portray LGBT and Queer people, and also take issue with the way in which LGBTQ liberation has been ‘whitewashed’ in order to appear “acceptable”.

One of the problematic elements to this film is that its director, Mike Buonaiuto, decides to portray a gay couple reunited after one of them has served time in the army – it’s a lovely storybook affair, the camera pans across the families waiting for their loved ones waving union jacks, and our gay soldier sees his partner running to a nice lovely long… hug.

Buonaiuto is referencing the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the US army last year, which was a victory in challenging legislative discrimination in the army. It was another issue that made headlines, people petitioned and protested, and finally won. The director, Mike Buonaiuto comments in Pink News: “the film looks to tackle the opposition head on, arguing if all, regardless of sexuality have the right to serve in the British military”, however he continues “[they are] risking their lives for our national security”. This comment is part of a worrying trend in sexual and gender activism, presenting “status quo” images of LGBT and Queer people that fit into current or acceptable political rhetoric – “we support our boys, we love our country too!” Activists in equality movements have often been tied to anti-war/anti-imperialist causes, so why show an explicit and quite nationalistic support of the army in a video about gay marriage?

The idea of taking a more “acceptable” political line plays out again in one of the worst aspects of this video – its completely sexist attitude toward gay marriage. We are shown one representation of LGBT/Queer people, that of two white (MAB) men, who are young, good looking, and well turned out. After the romantic embrace we are shown two captions at the end ‘all men can be heroes’ and ‘all men can be husbands’… i’m sorry, but, when was sexual and gender liberation about men being heroes and husbands? It seems again like a useless and reactionary addition to the video.

The creators completely ignore same-gender relationships between women, or other gender identities within our community. Again it is the acceptable and well known tv trope of affluent young gay men ‘fitting in’, and it’s boring. It is one our essential demands about gender that we find roads to rid ourselves of archaic notions of “heroic men and gentle women”, and challenge the gendered hegemony that pervades our capitalist media – this video fundamentally sells out on those principles in order to win another battle.

The tactic of pandering to the status quo is really poor politics. Can we really resign ourselves to chasing promises of single reforms when our oppression is part of every part of our lives, not just our relationships? It raises the question of how we relate to each other – it may be easy for the white, middle class, professional gay man to assimilate, but for the working class, black, queer mother, assimilation is impossible. Our demands for sexual and gender liberation may include marriage reform, but are much more radical that this video shows them to be – they are also intrinsically tied for to demands for jobs, pay and pensions and the demands for black and disabled liberation.

If we want to push positive representations of gender and sexual liberation into the public arena, then this video serves as a critical warning – if we do not show our diversity and solidarity with one another, than we will fail to get the support from each other that we so desperately need – we will fail to encapsulate the demands from the grassroots. Solidarity with each other under oppression is key to articulating what we need to change, so our demands are more than a few reforms here and there, but a reshaping of our attitudes toward sexuality and gender entirely.

Just a few thoughts and feelings, feel free to respond with any other perspectives, agreements/disagreements on here or on Facebook!

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2 Comments

  1. I too was to some degree dismayed when I saw the campaign video for the first time, but the entire purpose of the video is to, in essence, appeal to Sun readers. As you point out, a campaign against marriage equality is being waged at the moment, and it is the working class centre-right who will be the demographic ‘swing vote’. In the current political climate where the right wing have been on the rise (UKIP and the EDL in particular) if a social equality political campaign doesn’t have populist appeal, it won’t succeed. This isn’t supposed to be a grand ideological manifesto, it’s an advertisement, pure and simple. I’m sure the director could have made a video about a working class, black, queer mother. Heck, maybe he even wanted to. But the only people to whom it would emotionally appeal are people such as yourself – it would be ‘preaching to the choir’ so to speak.

    I’m far from an opponent of the advancement of any and all minorities, but the choice to feature white men and the military was a tactical one in the interests of getting as many people behind marriage equality as possible. It’s noteworthy that you condemn the campaign and yet offer no ideas for campaigns that would be both more inclusive and appeal to the same people. You are writing about an advertisement – it’s best to know something about advertising.

    • Well I don’t think you have a very welcoming response but ill take the time to reply to your points in case anyone more respectful shares the same view as you…

      So firstly the notion of ‘populist appeal’ should be looked at critically – we cannot jump to the assumption that because people hold contradictory ideas (such as homophobia/transphobia) that somehow its because we can’t talk and educate people about oppression, or that black oppression, sexual and gender oppression, disabled oppression, and fundamentally, class oppression is something that a minority of people face.

      We know we can educate people at the grassroots, we know that community education works when we have the means to do so – charities can work locally to send out material about oppression, our schools, colleges and universities can introduce programmes, we also should be able to have the time and resources to organise within our community so people can share experiences and forge paths forward to change society. If we had the means to share experiences, to communicate and educate, we wouldn’t be looking at such an oppressive society. However, I dont think we have much time or resources to do this, there seems to be a balance of power and resources toward a certain group in society, those who put the interests of profit (capital) over the interests of people.

      That takes me to the next point, that the question of liberation isn’t about ‘gays’ or ‘black people’ (for example) it is about the ideas in society, and how they materially affect us. Gender is a good example. Sexism is something that oppresses women, or those read as women because of their gender identity. However, despite women being disproportionately affected by the gender binary (as well as trans people), we all fundamentally loose out. The abolition of the gender binary means removing oppressive ideas that people fall into two binary genders, which will affect the way they see themselves, and others, from birth to death. Now that is something in ALL of our interests. It is a similar situation in regards to race, disability and class.

      I also think it assumes that because someone might be white, or a man, or straight, or non-disabled, or not trans, that they therefore don’t support our struggle, and I think you have pegged, largely working class people, as being somehow ‘less tolerant’. I live in a working class, multi-cultural area where there are two mosques. Me and my partner walk round hand in hand and very much in love and do not get any homophobia or funny looks, very contrary to some of the very middle-class areas we have walk through where we have been stopped and gawpted at. If the EDL and UKIP are getting votes because people are sick and tired of the political mainstream, then I don’t think we get a better call for societal change than that!

      Arguments about ‘populist appeal’ mean that we should hide away the true nature of our oppression, keep things quiet or risk being that one ‘with the chip on their shoulder’ – and that is both regressive and damaging. Whether it affects our confidence to speak out, or impact our mental health, the effects are very clear to us. We know that people, given time and resources can changes their society, and I think that affords another points – that if we change society, and take the pressures of wage labour, lack of resources and support away, that we could envision a society in which discrimination fades away. If we articulate demands similar to that of the occupy movement and radical trades unionists ‘we are the 99%’, and seek to put power into the hands of ordinary people… we wouldn’t need advertisers.

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