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Mar 3, 2009
Is it written in the stars...?  Is this God's experiment...? – No, wait, that's an Elton John song. But if you logged-on for your daily dose of horoscopes last week on this lovely berg in the middle of the internet that we call Care2, you may have found such camp stars referenced in the new "gayscopes" and "lesbianscopes" that Care2 commissioned amongst a whole host of new categories including horoscopes aimed at moms, horoscopes for singles and even "scopes" for our feline nearest and dearest. What could be wrong with that?

But friction was afoot. There was fuming on the forums, grumblings in the groups, and displeasure in the d… the d… well, people weren't pleased, lets put it that way. Specifically gay and lesbian people. You see, they'd read the horoscopes and found the content objectionable. Why? Well, to understand that, I think I'll share my personal perspective.

Let's face it, as one man, I'm small. I'm limited. And I'm also based in old Blighty (that's England for anyone born after the 1940's who doesn't have a penchant for War Time drama or Wilfred Owen poetry), so hearing from the Care2 LGBT community was something I was keen on, and hence the reason why I joined quite a number of groups. And hear from them I did.

In "GLBT Rights Global" the users were very quick to respond. Neal S., a group host, first raised the issue of the horoscopes with me in a thread designed specifically to discuss issues that people might want featured in the Civil Rights blog.

"The horoscopes given are so patently stereotypical.  For example, an Aries friend [who] checked her 'gay' horoscope got this message for the day: 'Real problems will call for real solutions today. So tackle issues rather than dance around them. And you know how much you love to dance. So pray that Madonna's not playing when the boss asks what went wrong with a project. Shaking your groove thing in front of him won't be an appropriate answer.'

I'm pretty sure I can keep my gay butt in a chair when asked a question by my boss, whether or not Madonna's playing…
"

Maybe it's because I'm British. Maybe it's because I'm slow. Maybe it's a combination thereof, but at first, I didn't see the issue. I said as much:

"Neal, I take your point, but surely horoscopes are sweeping generalizations anyway, and their content can't be expected to step outside that realm?"


We conversed for a while, and I said that, whilst I thought the stereotypes were frustrating, I also was of the opinion that Care2 had been admirable in their attempts at trying to cater for everyone – and I actually still think that – and whilst I thought that generalizations are never helpful, this was something that was perhaps being blown out of proportion.

Neal S. then replied with something that made me stop. It showed me another perspective. He said:

"Steve,
I can agree with frustrating, but it is frustration multiplied when found on a site such as this, which highly values political-correctness. There are many members among the 10.5 million here who have a negative view of the GLBT community and what we stand for. Care2 cannot and should not change that. Neither should Care2 give these people reinforcement for how they think."


I had been quoting a case for context. That we not overlook that these horoscopes were for entertainment purposes, and as such should be expected to draw on generalizations. But the kinds of generalizations they draw on, that's the real issue, isn't it? What is it that we are allowing ourselves to be defined as? If we allow negative stereotypes into our entertainment, then what is the next step that we take?

This point was further emphasized by another member of the group, Scott L., also a host of GLBT Rights Global, who said:

"Yes, these horoscopes are meant to be light, trite and funny. This can be done without pandering to stereotypes. They can be done in a way that uplifts and provides a bit of hope. I personally do not find it amusing to remind the gay aries not to grind his a$$ against the boss in the office anymore than anyone would have found it acceptable to remind the african-american aries male to wipe the fried chicken grease from his fingers before shaking hands with his boss."

Now we have context. You may already be aware that, thanks to the very vocal community here, Care2 reviewed the horoscopes (which were bought form Astrology.com and not written in-house) and in due time took them down, having listened to the group's concerns. Some said that perhaps the team did not act fast enough, but I don't want to debate that, for fear of loosing the real point:

What deserves to be highlighted here, shining and beautiful as it is, is the way that the gay community and gay rights supporters on Care2 took this matter and became active about it. They did not sit back, did not simply let the issue go, but wrote petitions, letters, paragraphs and paragraphs in forums as to why this wasn't appropriate.

Maybe you, yourself, do not care about gay rights. Or, maybe you think that the gay horoscopes and the language that was used therein, was merely a storm-in-a-tea-cup issue. But what we can agree on, surely, is that at Care2, caring is really the thing that brings us together. Being passionate about causes, about this world, that's what makes this place different.

And that's why its important to fight even the smaller battles, because that gives energy and impetus to those being fought on bigger stages, like the battle for gay marriage and other civil liberties.

And that's what this showed me. So now it's time to hand this discussion over to you. What do you think? When do generalizations become harmful? When are stereotypes helpful, and when do they damage? Or do you think stereotypes are the least of our troubles? And finally…
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Posted: Mar 3, 2009 7:30am

 

 
 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.

Author

Steve Williams
, 3
Wakefield, United Kingdom
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