A couple days ago I saw a picture on Twitter I saw what was perhaps the best means of resistance to an oppressive institution: an LGBT-rainbow-colored house across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church. A house that not only sends a powerful and eye-catching message, but also manages to do some real good for those marginalized in the community and by its neighbor across the road, who is probably most famous for its anti-gay protests at military funerals.
I read this article on Salon(http://www.salon.com/2013/03/19/rainbow_equality_house_moves_in_across_the_street_from_westboro_baptist_compound/) which gives a basic summary of the man who bought the house and painted it to simultaneously make fun of and resist the Westboro Baptist church’s hate tactics as well as provide a space in which everyone, specifically members of the LGBT community, can feel welcome. It’s a way of carving out indefinite space and redefining who is important and who matters against an oppressive power, and taking that power back. Not to mention it’s hilarious at the same time and mocking everything that Westboro Baptist believes in and stands for.
They’re going to have to look at that house and digest what those colors mean everyday, and good for the owner for pushing back and doing this on their territory.
I laughed when I saw this article and it immediately made me think of another similar news story that hits close to home: the University of Toronto Men’s Rights club. This is a club that has held lectures about why Women and Gender Studies should be eliminated from all university curriculums–their main argument being that they don’t consider it to be academic material–and has managed to book venues through the university to disseminate their hateful messages, under the guise of “equality”.
Like Westboro Baptist, I find this group to be a joke. How contradictory is it to try to eliminate another group’s right to exist? Even if it is morally wrong to discriminate or not like someone for their identity, it’s a whole other level when there’s a desire to eliminate: it’s this kind of mentality that leads to terrible things like genocides. Yes, the Men’s Rights group should have the right to an opinion, but when it’s hateful it no longer becomes free speech. When it impinges on someone else’s right to be the person that they are and express themselves, or tries to rid someone’s existence, it is no longer free, because it is taking someone else’s freedom.
There were many protests and debates surrounding this organization at U of T, with the official student union even blasting the university for enabling a student group like this to be recognized as legitimate since it is one mainly based on the suppression of marginalized voices in the community. To some extent I agree but I also think it’s important to have these groups that test our limits and force us to resist: at least they aren’t lying about their purpose or views so that people can be clear about how to fight back against it.
Equality House, however, is the ultimate way of fighting back. It sends a stronger message than any protest ever could and best of all it uses humor as a tactic in dismantling a problematic institution’s views. Maybe the student union and feminist groups at U of T should follow suit and print some funny posters or something, let this Men’s Rights group know that we are not easily fazed.