Time to drop the glitter bomb?

What larks! A group of angry activists in New Zealand, aka the Queer Avengers, has glitter bombed Germaine Greer.

It couldn’t, as Paris Lees argues today in Diva, have happened to a more deserving woman. For la Greer’s track record of spouting bilge on trans subjects has few equals.

Meanwhile, the Avengers’ habit of taking direct action against the most egregious offenders when it comes to anti-trans hatred is rapidly giving to New Zealand a reputation – possibly well ahead of what it deserves – as a no go, no nonsense sort of place, which could well teach the rest of us a thing or two about campaigning.

Or could it?

Throwing stuff – subverting things

There is, allegedly, a long tradition in the anglo-saxon world, of throwing muck. From ink tipped over Prime Minister Edward Heath, to eggs hurled at Cabinet Ministers (Michael Hesseltine and John Prescott, to name but two), fast forwarding to our very own Rupert, pied before a select committee for just generally being a nasty deceitful piece of work that was, well, just asking for an eyeful.

Actually, its not an especially anglo-saxon tradition. The Europeans were at it all through the 60’s, developing their very own situationist approach – which was mostly about undermining established political and economic assumptions through direct action designed to subvert what they stood for.

That is not quite the same as later campaigns, by groups like the Young Liberals (Stop the 70’s Tour) and Fathers for Justice. These, from quite opposite ends of the political spectrum calculated that direct action that caused maximum disruption would eventually, however much government claimed the opposite, cause the authorities to think twice about whatever it was they were doing and either stop it or talk about it.

Nor do I think that some of the more recent hurlings have anything to do with either of these traditions – subversion or compulsion. Nah! Hurling eggs and throwing pies are a lot more to do with a general feeling that that smug git of a politician (or media owner) could do with taking down a peg or two…and a plateful of foam is just the way to do it.

The case for direct action

So is such direct action a good thing or bad? Personally, I am all for it, providing it meets various criteria. I was brought up in the very heart of the Young Liberals in the 1970’s: direct action was not so much optional add-on, as implicit in an approach that saw community involvement and rising-up against the powers-that-be as the ultimate goal.

As situationism, action must work: that is, it must subvert, must create some degree of inversion of the established order and, at the same time, lead people to ask questions.

I think Glitter-bombing Greer more or less fit those criteria. It was largely harmless. It generated oodles of debate around a specific issue. And it targeted, precisely, someone with enormous positional power and privilege in the only way that most ordinary folk can target such a person: through ridicule.

Ditto other direct action. If it works, then there is a point to it.

The danger of bullying

But hark. What about the alternative perspective? I seem to remember around the time of the attack on poor, defenceless Rupert, some folk objecting that, however dressed up, this was assault, pure and simple. It was a criminal act of aggression and not one that any fit campaign ought to be associated with.

And while such voices are a bit more muted in respect of the current incident (glitter, I guess, is assumed to be a less noxious substance…though if it gets in your eyes, I’m not so sure). Still, there are worries.

In part, I suspect that is a generational thing. Just as us hardy old-timers used to cross the roads by ourselves at the tender age of 7 (surely enough to have social services pay a visit nowadays!) and inhabit houses without central heating: so our take on politics was possibly a bit rowdier, more robust. More rambunctious, even.

Has politics moved on?

So while I know where I stand on this incident, I know, too, that there are those who have problems with it. And I sign off with a question: have we moved on from that sort of direct action? Is it now, like cigarette-smoking and casual domestic violence, something we see as genuinely harmful?

And therefore something that ought no longer to form part of the modern day political lexicon?

jane xx


8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Caroline said,

    Quite germane, glitter bomb the brute Germaine.

  2. 2

    Samantha said,

    Just what transsexuals or even “trans” folk need in this world, A group calling itself the “Queer Avengers” claiming they represent “trans” positions. Since even those defined as trans that are transvestites are not “queer” by definition and for certain no transsexual is queer unless one considers their sexual orientation.

    The humorous part is the fools in the “trans” world are so freaking stupid they do not understand being avenged by a group called “Queer Avengers” intimates that trans people are “queer”.

    Maybe I have this wrong though. DO all you trans folk not transsexual consider yourself represented by people like “Queer Avengers”? Silly me, I guess most of society does look at a man in a dress as “queer”!

  3. 3

    Samantha said,

    By the way I am not saying this fool did not deserve to be glitter bombed.

  4. 4

    Jakarta Wagner said,

    I really like this post Jane.
    I don’t think its so cool doing this shit to an old person, even if said old person is an evil cunt who should burn in hell.

    For me it comes down you what an individual thinks real direct action is, and how far their willing to go.
    Lets face it , most of these lame assed mother fuckers in the trans community will rain down adulation on younger angrier activists ,and slap people on the back until it gets out of hand, then you’ll see them do some Olympic style back peddling , because they crossed the line in to the reality of how far direct action can go.

    Its one thing being a keyboard warrior, its another getting of your fat trans ass and making that action REAL action and getting your hands bloody. I really don’t think most people have the spine for it, and like you say ,maybe its time for things to move forward in a more enlightened ,peaceful and honest direction.

    It would be a shame if trans activism was set back because either the community couldn’t violently put its money where its mouth is when it came down to it , or because we made ourselves look like a pack of hysterical bullshitters without a clue….

  5. 5

    Engaging in mature dialogue as someone suggested on Twitter is possibly a better approach. But where the person espousing homophobic or transphobic concepts has no willingness to engage and continues to influence large numbers of other people, sometimes a symbollic action may be justified.

    In Middle Eastern countries, throwing a shoe is considered an appropriate sign of disapproval. With people who express continued anti-LGBT ideas and who wants to use their privilege to oppress LGBT people, then “glitterbombing” is still seen as a useful technique. Newt Gingrich was glitterbombed for homophobia, and now Germaine Greer for transphobia.

    Some people might say that New Zealand is a bit behind the times with “glitterbombing”. If that’s true, what is the latest, acceptable but effective tool for street activists to use? Is ther a new international standard?

  6. 6

    Shirley Anne said,

    I say no. I think it is better to meet people like Germaine at their level and retaliate in the same vein. Still the occassional egg might hit home too!

    Shirley Anne xxx

  7. 7

    eclectic chicken said,

    had they let me bring Janes bits home in a jar i’d quite happily sacrifice them to throw at ms greer…. the ironic resonance of her with a faceful of bollocks would be worth an assault charge.

  8. 8

    paula-transpanther said,

    Reply to people who think glitter is outdated and a bit “too gay” and looking for an alternative .. yes I agree.. Shit is a Weapon. Monkeys use it.. Aim for the Eyes!!

    *all activists are equal, yet some activists like to think they are more equal than others. I suggerst those activists stand out on the street protesting outside Vodafone and Topshop in a snowstorm in November 2010 (minus 12 it was in the wind) before condemning people who do go out and raise issues.. If these “anarchists” hadn’t done this the vile old waste of skin would have just had her hate platform and nobody would have been any the wiser..

    Personally I would have “thrown” a different kind of sparkly stuff.. and I might not have detached it from the car first 🙂

    The days of “outraged of Pinner” are coming to an end.. the time of tne panther is upon us!!

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