The recent Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 have been heralded by many as proof that the LGBT rights movement has “won” the battle for equality. While the nation is still far from equal, it is undeniable that the LGBT rights movement has become increasingly successful. Polls show that 58% of Americans support gay marriage, and even the conservative Disney Chanel is coming out and introducing its first same-sex couple.
Many feminists have been avid supporters of the LGBT rights movement, from NOW announcing that same sex marriage is a feminist issue (it is), to Gloria Steinem stating that gay rights and feminism are “completely the same thing.” The question that arises for many of us, is: How can feminists work to make other issues — like reproductive rights or paid family leave — as successful as the fight for marriage equality? While feminists have helped to support the LGBT rights movement, we also have a lot to learn from it.
One of the keys to success within the LGBT rights movement has been the ability to generate unusual alliances. For example, increasing numbers of religious groups have been coming out in support of LGBT rights. From LGBT synagogues to Catholics for Marriage Equality, the movement has worked to form partnerships from traditionally opposing groups. The feminist movement could be similarly successful in creating alliances. Could planned parenthood and various faith groups team up to provide low income women access to free birth control? Could feminists fighting for paid family leave team up with churches, union groups, men’s rights activists, the AAPR and parenting groups? We should, while many issues may divide us, many more bring us together, and these unions give us strength.
Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have been enormously helpful in generating support for the lgbt rights movement. From the Human Rights Campaign’s red equality sign to hash tag campaigns for equality, clever uses of social media have helped to strengthen support for the movement. While some feminist groups are already face book savvy, more could benefit from doing the same. The more viral videos and feminist memes, the better our message can be spread!
LGBT individuals went from non-existent on television and in movies, to becoming our favorite characters. From Dumbledore to Modern Family’s Cameron and Mitchell, mainstream media has come to acknowledge the existence of non-hetero romance. Additionally, major networks have begun to feature PSA’s from Jackie Chan’s Coming out of the Closet to Hilary Duff’s “think before you speak” video.
Feminist groups could potentially garner more support if feminist issues were featured more prominently in the media. With one in three women having an abortion before the age of 45, why do relatively few television shows even hint at the idea of it? With so many families struggling to find adequate and affordable childcare, or to take time off to care for an aging parent, why aren’t there PSA’s demanding paid family leave or a better system for child care? The more exposure feminist issues gain in the media, the more support the movement will receive.
LGBT pride parades have been happening in cities across the nation. These serve two purposes: to celebrate LGBT culture, and to gain momentum and support for political measures. Feminist groups have been successful in organizing visibilities, from slutwalks to rallies to stand with planned parenthood, yet there are very few feminist pride parades. These would be a great means, not only of celebrating feminism, but bringing a huge variety of feminists together to generate energy for multiple causes and issues.
While “coming out of the closet” for one’s sexual identity is much different than “coming out of the closet” as a feminist, the fact remains that both are powerful means of creating change. Many conservative legislators came out in support of marriage equality after learning of a son or daughter’s LGBT status. It is easy to decry something as “bad” and a group as “other” or “different” if one isn’t exposed to that group. But when the “other” is your sister or your son, your best friend or your neighbor, it’s much harder to maintain the illusion. When feminists are vocal about their values, in class, online, in church, to their friends, and unafraid of being labeled a feminist (a word too many shrink from), change occurs. It may seem small at the time, but it is in these little ways that larger issues are chipped away at.