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[personal profile] gmonkey42
So there was this link on Shakesville: "Why I don't like Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project"

Here are excerpts from the article followed by my comments. Also: angry Sylar icon!

1. The video promotes metro-centric and anti-religious sentiment.
By aligning their bullying with the religiosity and “small-town mentality,” Dan and Terry tacitly reinforce the belief (especially rampant in queer communities) that the religious and the rural are more bigoted.

There IS more bigotry in religious and rural areas (per capita, anyway). It's ridiculous to take the facts Dan & Terry presented about their own lives and accuse them of being unfair to the religious and/or rural. A whole lot of gay people had bad experiences that they have reason to believe were made worse by the (rural, religious) environment they lived in. But apparently they should just shut up about that?

2. The message is wrong. Sometimes it gets better– but a lot of times it doesn’t get any better.
This is bullshit. Nobody's saying "your life is guaranteed to be awesome as soon as high school is done and nothing bad will ever happen again." The message we're putting out is "right now you're dis-empowered because of your age and you're trapped in a bad situation; when you're an adult, you will have more legal rights that will give you more freedom to get yourself out of bad situations like this one."

And what about all the people whose lives did get better? We're lying? Or we're a tiny minority? I don't think so.

3. Telling people that they have to wait for their life to get amazing–to tough it out so that they can be around when life gets amazing– is a violent reassignment of guilt. Dan Savage telling kids that if they don’t survive their teenage years they’re depriving themselves? What kind of ageist garbage is that?
What the fuck, I'm starting to think the author is deliberately misunderstanding now. Dan is not saying anything about kids who don't survive because they die of an accident or illness. He's telling kids it's a good idea to NOT COMMIT SUICIDE. Is the author saying we SHOULDN'T tell kids they're probably better off not committing suicide?

Also? The author is robbing the word "violent" of all meaning. That kind of bullshit makes people not want to take feminist blogs seriously.

4. Stories of how your mom finally came around, over-write the present realities of youth.
Right, we should instead allow depressed teenagers to believe incorrectly that it will always be as bad as it is now. Because telling them the truth about our own lives is disrespectful or some shit. I don't even know what the author is talking about at this point.

5. The rhetoric about being accepted by family, encourages folks to come out– even when coming out isn’t a safe idea.
NOBODY IS SAYING THAT KIDS SHOULD COME OUT IMMEDIATELY. Most of the stories being told are about family members coming to accept you LATER when you're safely out of your teen years. Kids aren't stupid, they know whether it's safe to come out.

6. Bar story: vomit. It’s no coincidence that this is the first place where Dan and Terry mention queer space. Codified queer-space, restricted to 21+, w alcohol? Try again.
Right, because telling a true, cute story about two adult men flirting sexily with each other is totally vomit-inducing, YOU HOMOPHOBIC FUCK. Try again? What, try to live their lives over again and this time be constantly on alert to never do anything that might look like a gay stereotype, lest they incur the wrath of the self-hating PC police?

7. We shouldn’t be talking, we should be listening. Telling our own stories from our incredibly privileged positions, overwrites youth experience.
NO IT FUCKING DOES NOT. Telling one's story is not a zero sum game. YouTube is not going to run out of room for videos.

Would it be cool if Dan provided a forum for gay teens to communicate with each other? Sure! But 1. I'm pretty sure these already exist on the big 'ol internet and 2. gay youth are less likely to participate in something public like this because, as was pointed out above, it might not be safe for them to be out. But this project does nothing to prevent gay youth from speaking out for themselves.

8. Stories of over-coming adversity: no thank you. Narratives of how life was hard and but now is good, belittle lived pain, imply that a good ending is inevitable, and also undermine the joy and happiness in even bullied kids’ lives.
Is the author accusing us of belittling OUR OWN lived pain? Because that's what we're talking about.

This is the underlying error I see in this piece, the author is treating "gay teens who have a difficult time" and "gay adults who are satisfied with their lives" as two mutually exclusive groups. The whole point of this project is to reach out to kids who are just like we used to be, and be role models. NOBODY is saying a good ending is inevitable.

I was actually going to put a bit in my video about embracing the joy they have now even if at times it can seem like it's overshadowed by the bad stuff, because that's how it was for me. I left it out of the final cut partly for time concerns but mostly because I thought it would come off as condescending: of course kids know that they have moments of happiness even if overall their lives seem bad right now.

9. There is actually no path to change in this vision. Promoting the illusion that things just “get better,” enables privileged folks to do nothing and just rely on the imaginary mechanics of the American Dream to fix the world. Fuck that. How can you tell kids it gets better without having the guts to say how.
That's a great idea, instead of trying to give people some tools to help them survive in an imperfect world, let's just MAKE EVERYTHING PERFECT RIGHT NOW! Why didn't we think of that?

Of course we're also trying to improve real-life conditions! But that's going to take decades at least. It might look better on paper to take this all-or-nothing approach the author appears to favor but that doesn't do much for the kids who are suffering right now. It's like saying we should ban women's shelters and self-defense classes on the grounds that those things take the focus off the perpetrators. Fuck that. It's not impossible to do both.

10. Then we get a baby and go to Paris? WTF?
Translation: "I am mad at Dan and Terry because they are happier and more successful than I am. If anyone who is better off than anyone else talks about themselves, their only possible motive is rubbing our noses in it. The most unhappy and least successful person on Earth is the only one who is allowed to talk about their own life."

The article ends with a bunch of incomprehensible garbage about how we only want to help people who don't actually need our help and that by participating in this project we're exploiting gay teens and erasing their individuality? Somehow?

Also I think the author only watched Dan & Terry's video and conveniently ignored all the others that were made by people who aren't white, middle-class men.

Another important purpose that these videos serve, that the author ignored, is to show people (like everyone, not only gay youth) that being gay doesn't condemn you to a life of misery. That's what a lot of young gay people are being told and that's what a lot of homophobic adults believe. These videos are a powerful counter-message to that.

ETA: Ha! I was right about this: the author criticizes Dan for just putting out a video and not doing anything to actually change things and I was skeptical (see my comment below) that the author was practicing what they preach. And lo and behold here's this from a more recent post by the same author:
[allegedly a criticism she has received] 13. Ho, what have you even done to help poor, suicidal kids? You just sit around criticizing people! Come up with some tangible solutions!

[her response] I’ll tell you what. You take care of your work, and I’ll take care of mine.

Translation: I wrote this brilliant-ass blog entry, my work here is done. People like Dan who put their faces and voices out there can be held responsible for actually changing things; don't worry, I'll be sure and tell them if they're doing it wrong.


January 2012

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