I really adore youth who create media to send messages that are important to them. Rarely do I comment or write about such those that are poorly constructed or have unclear goals. This will be a first. The creators of the video below seem to really be invested and serious about their proposed project. What I’m wondering is: how can I see and find the value in this form of media versus just debunking it and finding the “wrong?”
This video was introduced to me when a friend shared it on her social networking site. It had several comments shortly after posting and I knew I had to check the video out. We have both worked at GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and are familiar with the goals and work of the organization. Needless to say, when I watched this video I was just as surprised and confused as many of her colleagues.
This video was sent to GLAADs attention via their twitter account when Jacob Sempler, Copywriter at the Miami Art School, sent it to them. Sempler is an art student who created this with two other classmates, Matilda Kahl the art director who is at Miami Art School and Emil Tilsmann the art director who is at the New School of Design/Parsons, for a class project. I want to be clear this is not an official video by GLAAD, it is a student project submitted to GLAAD.
The video is called “Balls of Pride” and seems to be focusing on heterosexual men (I’m including trans men who identify as heterosexual because the focus is on “gay men,” and I recognize that the creators may not considered trans men or their sexual orientations in creating this video) and how they can show their “pro-gay” support/ideas/etc. through their girlfriends. The description by the creators reads:
“Straight men avoid publicly stating that they’re pro-gay for various reasons. Our idea is to have their girlfriends do it for them. That makes them pro-gay and unquestionably straight at the same time.”
The creators state in the video that “research” they found (which was by interviewing 2 men on the street who the creators may have known) is what led them to understand that many heterosexual men are “pro gay” but don’t know how to talk or speak about it. Their goal is to do this through their girlfriends, have them announce their “pro-gay” ideologies while also affirming their heterosexuality so there is no confusion if they are gay or not.
I’m not sure how long this video will remain up, so apologies in advance for that! I’m also going to let you choose if this is appropriate to watch at work, there are no inappropriate terms or language used. However, I will share that the images and conversations around the “Balls of Pride” does center on wordplay for testicles. There is even a “wall of balls” they believe they can create that will demonstrate an increase in support via facebook.
See what I mean? There’s so much good here, but there is also so much wrong here as well. It’s so layered. I completely appreciate their attempts and their vision. I also really appreciate that they believed so much in their project that they were shameless in promoting it via social media and networking. It is that kind of drive that I adore in many young people.
At the same time I see how this form of media is a misplaced attempt to create a community of people who openly support the human rights of all people. There is still a fear of people thinking others may believe they are gay and this is what the main problem being a member of that community? This is at the heart of the issues. There’s so much more here to unpack, from using a partner to do this, focusing on genitals without recognition of the social construction of sex, and finding/using our voices to promote social justice without recognizing the ways we perpetuate certain types of oppression.
It’s important to me to also address how some may react with laughter and see this as comical. I’m not a fan of continuing to laugh at this piece of media, I admit it did make me laugh a few times and the wordplay was juvenile in a way that reminds me why I love to teach sex ed. However, having a sense of humor and using it appropriately to create media that can result in some form of social or community change is a skill that not everyone has. Often such humor can be effective, but when done poorly or in bad taste it can lead to all sorts of challenges, ridicule of the target population, and even physical pain for some who may be harmed.
I share this in hopes that it may promote some form of discussion either here or in the spaces we are occupying. This may be a useful tool to begin conversations about media, media literacy and media justice with many youth, but also among ourselves.