By Jessica Huseman
While the Supreme Court considers both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act this week, Facebook and Twitter have been painted red with equal signs replacing profile pictures. The symbol, which was released by the Human Rights Campaign, is a pink equal sign set over a red background symbolizing love, and it went viral within a matter of hours. But will it make a difference?
No. The Supreme Court is not tallying the number of red equal signs in its decision, but — at least in my opinion — that’s not really the point.
I doubt anyone who chooses to swap out their selfie for the symbol believes that they are going to have an impact on what the justices write in their decision. But, in the end, the progression of LGBT rights in this country is about acceptance, and showing public support for this movement is an incredible way to spread that acceptance, even if there are no immediate public policy implications.
Those that call out this movement, dubbed “avatar activism,” for being a pointless show of support often accuse those who change their profile pictures of defeating the purpose of activism — why actually protest when you can just change your profile picture from your bedroom? Or they call out its effectiveness, pointing out the green wave of Twitter icons that took over social media during the Green Movement in Iran, which may have made things worse for Iranian supporters and journalists on the ground.
But this isn’t about creating change — the decision lies with the Supreme Court. No amount of protesting in front of the court is going to change the minds of the nine justices that hold the future of gay marriage in their capable hands. And we also aren’t dealing with a violent movement — this is a movement of acceptance. This, quite honestly, is the biggest show of support that most people can reasonably give at this juncture.
Social media is how we connect with our friends, co-workers and even distant acquaintances — many of whom may be struggling with their sexuality. This small show of support, which publicly displays support for equal rights and acceptance of differences may mean more to them than anyone could possibly know.
Even as a straight ally, it touched my heart to see how many of my Facebook and Twitter friends were comfortable enough with their views to change their profile pictures. That, in itself, is a sign of progress. Majority opinion was against same-sex marriage just a few years ago, but now support is so commonplace that we are willing to make it “Facebook official.”
So, it may be a small show of support, but it is one that signifies the growing community building up around the fight for equal rights and offers a hand of friendship to our LGBT friends. You may call it pointless, but I call it beautiful.