Protest has long been a way of addressing serious issues and bringing about serious change, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a fun activity, too. In fact, humor has been part of the protest movement dating back to ancient Greece. Plus, it’s not just fun, it’s been found to be persuasive: some people who are put off by angry chants and the usual political rhetoric can be swayed after seeing an issue from a satirical perspective.
Here are five recent political protests that employed humor to make a point:
1. A group that refers to itself as the “Glitterati”¯ confronts politicians with anti-gay stances in an unusual way: glitter-bombing. The Glitterati approaches conservative politicians at public events and showers them with the sparkly confetti. Not only does the flashy glitter contrast with the ugly hate speech these politicians spout, but also the idea is that the politician will be forced to think about the issue as he finds stray bits of glitter on his person for days to come. Politicians like Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum have all been glitter-bombed, but only Newt Gingrich failed to see the humor in the political statement, calling it, “clearly an assault.”
2. For some, the Harlem Shake is an amusing internet meme. For others, it is an act of deviance to speak out against oppressive rule. Egyptians who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood have taken to performing the dance. Following a few years of violent opposition, dissenters chose the Harlem Shake because it is visual but peaceful. “It is all about freedom of expression,” said Mohamed Mostafa, an Egyptian student. “We are free people and we will do what we want.” Plus, all that rhythmic thrusting garners media coverage, which draws attention to their plight. Protesters in Tunisia have taken a similar approach by performing some Harlem Shakes of their own.
3. The Westboro Baptist Church has made a name for itself by showing unfathomable levels of hatred in the name of religion. Don’t worry, I’m not about to applaud the “God Hates Fags”¯ group for its comedic abilities. It’s the counter-protesters who stand alongside the demonstrators with signs of their own that bring the humor. Proclaiming things like “God Hates Signs” and “God Hates Figs”¯, these playful pranksters serve as a reminder that it is more productive to be offended by this hate group’s stupidity than its message.
4. Participants of the Occupy movement have held countless actions across the country, many of which come with a chuckle. One such funny event was when a group of activists decided to move into a Bank of America lobby. Frustrated with BoA‘s fast-and-loose foreclosure practices, the Occupiers decided to give the bank a taste of its own medicine by bringing furniture into the lobby and “moving in.”¯ After all, tax payers gave $230 billion to Bank of America in the form of a bailout, shouldn’t that count as rent for some of the people the bank has made homeless? As the video footage demonstrates, even the bank manager couldn’t help but crack a smile at the Occupiers’ lighthearted approach.
5. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a decades-old organization of queer men dressing in nun costumes to draw attention to issues of gay rights. The group’s campy drag performances take on religious bigotry and discriminatory politics with style. Their boundary-pushing act is so popular and effective in the San Francisco area that, at this point, the establishment more often protests the Sisters than the other way around.
Know of any other protests that add some levity to their cause? Share them in the comments.
Top Photo Credit: Glenn Scofield Williams