If you haven't been following lgbt issues that long, you might not even have heard of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). GLAAD is the main organization in the queer community that is supposed to be challenging heterosexism in the media. It has lost its way.
Michael Rogers, on Blog Active, complained about GLAAD's decision not to nominate his movie Outrage for one of their awards. GLAAD's reasoning for the decision was as muddled as a typical George Will or Andrew Sullivan commentary. But, what really struck me is just how angry the commenters were at GLAAD, and most of the anger was not related to that specific award decision.
NG Blog recently used sarcasm to bring up some of the deeper issues that the controversy over the award decision is bringing to the surface.
Recent examples of GLAAD fighting homophobia include defending ABC against Adam Lambert, attacking Perez Hilton when he was the victim of a gay bashing (and that came from the then negative feedback from Perez calling out Carrie Prejean) because he dropped a slur, and their pick and choose agenda over homophobia and transphobia in the media.
I had been rather perplexed and upset by GLAAD's decision to violate the lgbt Utah Boycott by participating in Sundance, despite the fact that there is no way to participate in any major event in Utah without financing the heterosexism, racism, and misogyny of the Mormon Church/Hate Group. There are times when I seriously wonder whose side GLAAD is on. They seem to put the whims of the entertainment industry over the liberation of queers every time.
In a recent commentary on the Advocate.com, Michelangelo Signorile followed the money trail and discussed conflicts of interest in the organization.
At the heart of the controversy is a simple fact: GLAAD solicits money from networks and entertainment companies and then hands them awards for what the organization deems positive media representation of the LGBT community. (In 2009, ABC actually led rival networks with its number of nominees.) Media companies receiving the awards—many of which often engage in or perpetuate the very bias and defamation that GLAAD crusades against—sponsor the celebrity-strewn benefits and underwrite the performances in return for branding opportunities and choice tables. This fund-raising dynamic developed over time and, according to former staffers, accounts for a large percentage of the group’s money—sort of like a drug habit it just can’t shake. And also like a drug habit, this setup enormously compromises the group: What kind of effective watchdog takes money from the industry it polices? Imagine the ineffectiveness of a congressional watchdog group taking money from House and Senate members.
The last sentence doesn't appear to be an intentional dig at the HRC, but that organization is dependent on the same wealthy donors that finance those very politicians.
Money doesn't just talk. Money can silence too.
Signorile has reached the point of frustration that he is suggesting that another or a new organization may need to take over the role of GLAAD in fighting media heterosexism.
If GLAAD wants to be a real leader in quashing gay bias in the media, it must stop taking money from the companies whose programming it scrutinizes and must speak out quickly and forcefully when incidents occur. If GLAAD is unwilling to do that, a new group needs to take its place, one that is Web-based and one that will galvanize people to aggressively complain to these companies. In many ways that’s already happening: Numerous LGBT blogs, from Joe.My.God. and Towleroad to Pam’s House Blend, often respond faster than GLAAD, generating pressure on news outlets and entertainment companies. But an organized, focused effort is necessary. Media and entertainment companies will respond to whoever generates sufficient pressure, and if that means an entity other than GLAAD, then so be it.
This is so upsetting to me, and not just because the issues are so important. I'll swipe a comment I put up on Blog Active. (I edited the second paragraph to make it easier to follow.)
It's not true that GLAAD always was as useless as it is today. At one time, it was a network of grassroots chapters that got a lot done. The SF Chapter did more in a month than the now national, professionalized GLAAD accomplishes in five years. (Note: I lived in L.A. at the time, not SF.)
The destruction of the grassroots a long time ago was bad enough. But, things have gotten worse. GLAAD had been run for a few years by a homophobic Republican until the past few months.
The frustrating thing about GLAAD is just how far they have fallen. The GLAAD of old would have never assailed Perez Hilton (regardless of whether you like him or not) in order to give a free pass to his queer bashers. The GLAAD of old would be fighting Hollywood heterosexism, which is worse now than it was ten years ago.
It's so sad.
You may wonder what I meant by saying that Hollywood Heterosexism is worse now than it was. Yes, it's true that more openly queer performers have become visible. But, that usually has been in spite of the entertainment industry. (They came out after becoming successful.) I finally gave up on cable a few months ago for a variety of reasons, but I noticed at the time that homophobic jokes, storylines, and attitudes were more prevalent in 2009 than they had been for years.
I just checked and confirmed Signorile's report that GLAAD has redesigned its website. It now looks more like the Internet home of an activist organization and less like a website for wannabee starfuckers. Now, GLAAD needs to walk the walk.
Two other recent blog postings critical of GLAAD:
Jarrett Barrios' Sloppy Defense of GLAAD's Obvious Conflicts of Interests (Is Bad for Him, GLAAD + The Gays) (Queerty)
GLAAD's Media Awards: The Saddest Showing Yet (The Awl)