SCOTUSblog picks guy in nude mesh unitard as image of Prop 8

UPDATE: SCOTUSblog has graciously removed the photo. Good for them.

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SCOTUSblog, the Internet’s number one source for information surrounding the Supreme Court, a site that just won a prestigious Peabody Award, has a grand total of one photo on its Web site from yesterday’s huge demonstration outside the Supreme Court for its historic arguments over Prop 8 and gay marriage.

Is it a photo of the adorable gay married couple, Kelly and Jack, with their three adorable children Ravyn, Cardel and Raine, one of whom, the little boy on the right, when an interviewer asked his thoughts on what was going on that day, replied: “God loves everybody”?

adorable-couple-and-kidsx

This is Kelly and Jack, from DC, and their three kids Ravyn,Cardel and Raine. While being interviewed, the smaller boy on the right told a radio show, “God loves everybody.” Adorable. Click the “next” button above to the right, to see the next photo in the photo essay. © John Aravosis 2013

Nope.

Or maybe SCOTUSblog chose the photo of Stuart and John, who are married and have been together for 25 years, and appeared yesterday just in front of the Supreme Court, for everyone to see, in their tuxedoes?

great-couple-2x

Wrong again.

Okay, then SCOTUSblog had to choose, for that one photo typifying our struggle for marriage on this most important day in our movement, the wonderful biracial straight couple who took the time out of their day to fight for the civil rights of complete strangers:

inter-racial-marriagex

Not a chance.

No, the photo that the most-esteemed site on the entire Internet for Supreme Court news chose to represent our struggle for marriage equality was of an androgynous man with neon dyed hair in a semi-nude mesh unitard flashing his nipples and prancing around like a pixie.

SCOTUSBLOG

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people outside the Supreme Court yesterday and only one person – by my count, as I walked around for two hours snapping photos – looked like this.  And the one photo SCOTUSblog chooses for its entire Web site, to represent scores of gay couples across America who want to settle down, get married, have children and a family, and partake in their own slice of the American dream, the one depiction that SCOTUSblog chooses to mark the most important day in the gay civil rights movement since the Stonewall riots in 1969, was that one.  (Stephen Colbert used it last night as well – it was syndicated by Bloomberg.)

I contacted SCOTUSblog privately about this last night, to no avail.

Putting aside for a moment the wisdom, or appropriateness, of wearing nude unitards to the Supreme Court (we’ll get to that in a minute), the question of media bias, intentional or otherwise, comes to mind.

It was a common problem in the 1980s and 1990s (and is still a problem today on Fox).  Whenever the media would do a story about “gay rights,” no matter the story, they’d use a picture of a flamboyant drag queen or a guy in ass-less leather chaps, to represent our entire community and our struggle.  And while I love me a good drag queen (and have no complaints about leather), and while both are certainly a part of our larger community, they’re not representative of the entire community, so why show the same photos every single time you do a story about our civil rights?

Because they shock and titillate.

Why care?  Because such depictions risk influencing the reader into thinking gay people are “the other,” and thus less worthy of equal civil rights.  There’s a reason we don’t have our full and equal civil rights, and it’s not because people think we are just like them.  Not to mention, in a more general sense, photos like this have little to do with the underlying story, nor are representative of the people who were actually there outside the Supreme Court yesterday – there was quite literally one person in outrageous dress yesterday, of the entire throng that was there, and SCOTUSblog (and Bloomberg News) found him – so photos like this are not even journalistically accurate. Then why choose a photo that not only risks prejudicing the reader, but inaccurately depicts the underlying story?

SCOTUSblog, like a lot of us, is new on the media scene, so they didn’t benefit from the battles of the 80s and 90s.  Bloomberg, on the other hand, has less of an excuse.

Now for a word about going to the Supreme Court half naked in fairy drag.

I joined in a spirit discussion last night on Facebook as to whether it was appropriate for this particular individual to even go to the Supreme Court dressed like this.  Many were appalled, but some defended him, arguing that either the photo would have no negative impact, that “drag” is an integral part of our community dating back to Stonewall and before, and that since we embrace freedom we should also embrace the freedom to be who we are wherever we are, including at the Supreme Court.

To that, I say: If you were appearing before the Supreme Court, as a lawyer or a party to a lawsuit, would you dress like that?  Or forget the Supreme Court, would you let your lawyer dress like that in court if you were being sued?  Would you dress like that in court if you were being sued?  Would you go to work dressed like that?  Would you meet your boyfriend’s parents for the first time dressed like that?

No, you wouldn’t.  So much for freedom.

Also important, we’re not talking about someone who is transgendered, and is simply dressing according to their true gender.  Instead, someone is simply having fun.  At our expense.  And as much as folks like to make the “freedom” argument, even a defender of the pixie last night on Facebook admitted that his drag boyfriend, who is a lawyer, would never go to court dressed in drag.  So there are limits – self-imposed limits – to our self-expression.

Is it too much to ask folks to respect those limits – or at least just think about them a little – on the most important day in our civil rights movement in nearly half a century?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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