The marriage equality debate is now well and truly underway in Australia, but for every Facebook profile photo decal and report that shows that yes, the majority of the country does support same-sex marriage, comes an advertising campaign from the ‘No’ voters.
At best, these messages disregard what should be equal legal rights for thousands of Australians and at worst, they are misleading, misinformed and incredibly harmful to a countless number of people. So why do we keep on sharing the imagery that goes along with this rhetoric? God knows the ‘No’ campaign aren’t sharing ‘Yes’ posters and images and amplifying that message.
In a bid to voice our outrage and offer our support to the LGBTQI community, many of us have been quick to share stories, videos, statuses, and tweets about these ads and posters. Doing this makes us feel good; like we're being worthy allies. When we post about these things, we forget one thing: that posting about hate is just a reminder, for many, that hate exists.
Our intent is to fact check, and disprove claims, rationally tearing down the flimsy arguments and blanket statements made by the 'No' campaign. We write impassioned messages about how we can't believe this kind of vitriol can be given airtime and ask what message this is sending. And then we hit publish and send it out into the world. But were not thinking to take out the photo or video that had come to represent this latest push. We're not and what seeing that will do to someone else.
When looking on Facebook yesterday, photographs and video footage relating to the 'No' campaign's latest ad appeared in my newsfeed 23 times before I left the site.
Weeks earlier, image after image of a hateful and factually incorrect anti same-sex marriage poster that appeared in an alleyway in Melbourne was the feed flooder of the day. I saw that poster and its disgusting messaging for days.
And in some ways, that was okay, because that poster wasn't criticising my right to be married or my ability to raise healthy and happy kids should I want to. But it was saying that about some of my friends. And they don't need to see that. They already know that kind of hate exists. And me reminding them that that hate is out there in the world is not helping in any way.
Aside from the fact that we're exposing LGBTQI people to something they've never agreed to look at, we're assuming that sharing content that counters this hate is actually useful in some way.
But every time we share those photos or stories or videos we're putting the messages of the 'No' campaign back out there. We're giving it traction and more airtime than it would otherwise have. And we're exposing the very people we're trying to support to those photos and stories and videos over and over and over again, feed scroll, after feed scroll, after feed scroll.
If we want to be good allies to the LGBTQI community during this historic moment, we don't need to remind them at every opportunity that we're on the right side of history; on their side. Rather, we need to vote. And make up the numbers at rallies like the one held in Melbourne over the weekend. And let our parliamentary representatives know that we support marriage equality. And most importantly, we need to listen when the LGBTQI community speaks.
What we don't need to do, though, is the dirty work of the 'No' campaign by sharing their photos and videos and posters. That's their responsibility.