Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Queering It Gets Better

I love this depiction of the "It Gets Better" movement.

Found here

The picture, with comments like "made with white privilege" and "0% class awareness" shows an important critique of the movement. It refers to this niche that middle to upper class white gay men have found where they can fit in and happily consume products. And capitalism benefits immensely from their spending power.

Like the last post that I wrote that was critical of the "It Gets Better" movement, I feel like I need to explicitly say that I am glad it is happening. I like the attention that it brought and is currently bringing to queer issues, and I think it is important to tell young people that it generally does get better. I just think that we need to push it further to try harder to make things better now. I worry that by saying that it will get better, we are at the same time justifying the abuse that teens face as "kids being kids."

I don't think that it would have made me accept my own sexuality any sooner had a few relatively wealthy urban white men told me that it would get better. What happens to those of us who cannot inherit this white male privilege? What about trans youth? People of color? Queer people with disabilities? Poor or working class queer people? What happened to the queer movement that did not fit into dominant and consumerist norms?

We are replacing one normative culture with another, very similar, prescribed set of rules and calling it transformational in some way. I think we need to queer the It Gets Better movement.


  1. Great post. The "it gets better" campaign, as you indicate, does tend to import the "homonationalism" (to use jasbir k. puar's terminology) in the mainstream/bourgeois sectors of the queer movement. I like how you've pointed out the nuances, however: while we need to critique the dominant ideology of this campaign, I think you're correct in indicating that it is utterly evil and hasn't done some good.

    While we shouldn't waste our time by focusing all our energy in reformist movements, we should always recognize, obviously, that reforms - especially ones that help in even a small way to raise consciousness - do accomplish something. (There are also "it gets better" videos by women of colour, though these are clearly not the most popular.)

    What's interesting (and/or scary) is that the "it gets better logic" is now being imported elsewhere. A friend sent me this article in the Toronto Star about someone who suffered through sexist bullying in highschool and her solution is to tell other girls that "it gets better":
    And then there was a follow up story where the Star actually argued that the solution to this sort of bullying was for the women to dress and act more "modestly." Seriously.

  2. Thanks for that link... parts of it were eerily similar to my first attempt at highschool... luckily, that was before there was webcams or 'sexting' (now I feel old), but it is the same kind of policing of women's bodies and behavior. It's kind of odd how the woman in the story manages to use a specific discourse to slut-shame herself while at the same time humanizing herself and showing how not every person that makes this type of film has a pornstar mentality.