It’s been a long time since i posted something likely to be incendiary, but that doesn’t mean i haven’t been pondering. Oh, i ponder like nobody’s business on a slow day. The plan is to come back later today and post a snippet, but until then here are my thoughts on something i’ve been hearing/talking/thinking a lot about lately. These thoughts are purely my own, so you know who to blame if they’re incomprehensible, offensive, or both.
To Mainstream or not to Mainstream, that is the question?
As someone who started grade school in the 1970s the word “mainstreaming” has a very specific meaning. When I was in first grade it had just become trendy to send kids who weren’t “perfect” to school with everyone else. During my time on the little kids’ side of the playground my classmates were deaf, legally blind, and some of them had cerebral palsy or Down syndrome. They were also every color of the rainbow: Asian, Latino, black, Pacific Islander, Native American (and I have a feeling I’ve forgotten someone so I apologize; that was a long time ago!).
Mainstreaming 1970s style was met with some strenuous opposition from some corners of society but for the most part the kids on the playground couldn’t have cared less about someone’s disability. All we cared about was who was nice and who wasn’t.
You can probably see where I’m going with this.
The latest push for mainstreaming is surrounding the LGBTQ community. There are good things to be said for fitting in and becoming an active part of the larger community of humans we all live in. However, there’s a big difference between a nice stew and paté. A nice hearty stew can contain dozens of flavors, each morsel retaining the qualities that make it special—you won’t mistake a bite of carrot for a whole clove of garlic, even if the garlic has been deliciously mellowed by its exposure to the mixture as a whole.
On the other hand, once an ingredient goes into a paté it loses its unique characteristics in order to contribute fully to the overall experience. The onion in a paté doesn’t resemble the onion in a stew.
Sorry if it grosses anyone out to liken humans to food products but hopefully at least the metaphor is clear.
I don’t want to live in paté.
If someone else does, fine, but the push to create a society where the rainbow brigade is indistinguishable from our straight white middle class neighbors just makes me sad. I have this attitude in part because I’m not straight or middle class, but mostly because I’m afraid the push toward mainstreaming will result in homogeneity—and since the overwhelming majority of people are straight, I can only guess what that would end up looking like.
I enjoyed growing up with people from all over the world, people who were differently-abled or didn’t speak English at home or who were just plain unique in their own way. My feeling about the mainstreaming of the rainbow is that it’s less about becoming fully accepted than it is about fitting in. It feels like the difference between being tolerated (gee, thanks for allowing me to continue to live), and being genuinely accepted as fellow humans. And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Ah the old “melting pot” problem. How do we retain our individual cultures and traditions if we all melt into a new, homogeneous whole?
I saw an interesting post about this same issue a while back, on tumblr, about how the recent JC Penney ad (from their June mailer) featuring a white gay couple was a problem for the LGBT community. (I can’t find anything ever again on tumblr, because I deleted my account and all my favorites. I’m not smart.)
Anyway, the gist of it was that this “normalization” trend that is happening, and is reflected in such advertisements, is really kind of a problem for lgbt peeps because it equates acceptance with conformity. In the ads, usually you have basically the same stereotypical pretty-couple as in any other ad, only the girl is replaced by another guy. They still have two beautiful kids, a perfect house, they are cis-gendered and attractive. So really, it is only a small percentage of the lgbt community which is being embraced by these ads. In effect, they are saying same-sex couples are acceptable, so long as they are “just like” opposite sex couples. It’s the advertising equivalent of asking a gay couple “so, which one of you is the woman, and which one is the man?”
Certainly, being “normalized” and “mainstreamed” is better than being beaten up, unfairly judged, discriminated against, or jailed any day of the week. But I think we all need to be mindful of how this assimilation occurs.
True acceptance should never come with conditions. (And stew is way better than pate, even without the metaphor) 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Amelia. 🙂
This has been stewing since June for me too (ha! sorry, couldn’t resist!), but it wasn’t the JCP ad that started it (although you make an excellent point about the representation of queer couples in the mainstream media! i feel more pondering coming on . . .). It was the uproar surrounding the movement to “clean up” Pride parades. There’s a vocal minority who want to clean them up so they can be “family safe”. Personally, what i hear is: “act normal so you can be a tourist attraction”.
Love your last sentence: True acceptance should never come with conditions.
(Although i agree with you about pate. ;))
Charley you will never be a tourist attraction, so have all the say you like. Acceptance is acceptance, you can’t normalize it. Personally I detest pate it is too bland. A lot of people these days though seem to want a pate world which is why I am sounding it for the stew.
Thanks, Shey–i had a feeling you were a stew kind of gal. *hugs*