The Corporate Monochrome

When a new library was built at my alma mater and a physical link was built to join it with the neighbouring building, the Royal Bank made a donation for the link’s construction and thus the link became known as the Royal Bank Link (corporate logo included). After industrialist families gave oodles to allow the building of a library or another major building at a given university, the resulting library or building was named after the family matriarch (hence why the names McCain and Irving resonate on Maritime campuses). If you want to go to a NHL game in Montreal, you end up going to the Molson Centre; in Ottawa, the Corel Centre.

Ah, those benevolent corporations! What would we effin’ do without ’em?!

Well, from the looks of things, we couldn’t name landmarks anymore. Or events. For instance, isn’t the biggest curling event in this country named the Nokia Briar? And on and on it goes.

But what really bothers me with all of this is how we just accept how corporations have managed to incrust their names into popular culture and turn them into household words. We accept without questioning the fiction of corporate personhood. And the next step (when we ascribe a personality to a corporation) is that some of us feel compelled to “do something nice in return” for the corporation.

Think I’m exaggerating?

I think Air Canada’s real swell for comping tickets to fly RuPaul to Halifax for Pride. But do I think we should plaster the Pride site with a banner ad for Air Canada?

Absolutely not!

Sure, give the airline full credit for its contribution and let lots of people know exactly what its sizeable contribution is. After all, I’m sure Air Canada can use all the “good PR” it can get given how it’s reviled domestically compared to its discount competitors. But a banner ad? Nawh. Next thing you know, we’ll be offering to call the whole event the “Air Canada Halifax Pride Festival” or something vapid like that. Isn’t it already bad enough that the word “gay” no longer stands next to “pride”?

Okay, I’m going off on a tangent now (you’ve been warned!) …but I can’t help being reminded of the “You’ve come a long way, baby” commercials that objectified women, effectively slapping down the strides towards equality third-wave feminists made in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I fear gays and lesbians, in their attempt at mainstreaming themselves, are heading in the same direction, just as many young women today take for granted the gains made by their foremothers. At Pride events today, we no longer march; we “parade.” After all, heaven forbid we should “disturb” people by coming across as being a little militant or anything nasty like that! Plus, I am told and should understand, the whole parade is to be a “family” event.

Oh good grief…

In my mind, that’s very disingenuous since all that does is flatten the range of diversity. While the right-wing’s fiction of a “homosexual agenda” is just that — fiction — there are significant differences in world views resulting from centuries of marginalization. Ironically, RuPaul him/herself, commenting on a recent Pride event, commented on her blog:

i guess what bothers me about today’s gay culture is that it seems to disassociate itself from people who dance to the beat of different drummer. hell, these kids weren’t dancing at all! they were just emulating straight culture. i can already hear my pundits saying “ru! get over it! you’re old! times have changed! gays don’t wear head to toe MYLAR anymore!”

In another post where she comments on the Michael Jackson verdict, she correctly reminds us that “remember, it was the queens who started the GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT, not the ‘straight acting’ cowards.” I may not fully follow or agree with her connection of that statement to the MJ trial (let alone her usage of the term “gay/straight ‘culture'”), but I do agree with her that we are endebted to the 1969 Stonewall queens for setting the wheel in motion and declaring that gays and lesbians weren’t going to take [the marginalization] anymore. And although Ru’s usage of the word “coward” isn’t “nice,” it rings true, for only by disturbing the mainstream did we get where we are today, not by meshing into the mainstream and all its (bland, materialistic) so-called values.

I think that’s the main reason why I expressed so much reservation two years ago about same-sex marriage; I felt government — the de facto regulator of the mainstream — needed to get its nose out of the business of marriage so that perhaps the institution could be re-created to fit everyone’s needs, not only the regulation of property rights or the religious symbolism. But two years hence, one of my best friends has married her (same-sex) love of her life, and the Liberal minority government in Ottawa is trying to get the House to sit through the summer in order to finally get the federal same-sex marriage legislation passed. Much hangs in the balance now, so the failure to pass this legislation would be catastrophic — not just for its own sake or my friends’ sake (as considerable as those stakes are), but also because mostly all the other issues, on which the GLBT community should have been working, have for the most part been neglected or, worse, co-opted into the mainstream.

I mean, Article 15.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms still doesn’t (and won’t) include sexual orientation as grounds on which “every individual is equal before and under the law.” I’m just sayin’ that it’s far from over. And that’s just the basic legislative stuff.