(Editor's Note: Patch was overwhelmed with comments and responses and Kelly Cole has answered many private messages as well. We asked her to write a follow-up about the billboard, which has now been taken down, but there are others nearby and near other schools, so the issue remains very much alive.)
First read the previous article and response:
So my blog complaining about the 60 Manhunt Mobile billboards I passed every week has become an early holiday gift for the company’s owners. Their PR reps sent it around to prominent gay bloggers and it got picked up nationally. The culmination was Fox News gleefully inviting me to appear live last night. Of course I declined.
In my email to Fox, I noted that apparently one of the Manhunt Mobile owners publicly supported a conservative agenda, which is an important news story in itself (and a potential Tom Wolfe novel). He donated to McCain, but don’t look for Fox to jump on that hypocrisy any time soon. I also stated that my appearance on their show would “most likely not help illuminate the point I was trying to make, which is that I’d like a little more help in maintaining my young child’s innocence for a bit longer.”
One week and hundreds of comments later, there are a few things I’d like to address here, rather than on Fox.
I wrote my piece about the Manhunt billboards not because they had gay content but because they were a current example of the kind of advertising I have an issue with, and because I was seeing them literally 60 times M-F for weeks. But I should have mentioned in my original piece that I actively protest many of the images that make up outdoor advertising in our community. AdultCon and Spearmint Rhino come to mind. And don’t get me started on the print campaigns for the Saw movies or the endless plastic surgery ads. The quality, content, volume and placement of outdoor advertising in L.A. isn’t just eroding the quality of my family’s life, it’s undermining the quality of our whole (beloved, in my case) town.
However, I believe I did make a mistake with my piece in focusing solely on the Manhunt billboards. The gay aspect of them was not my concern, or my son’s. All configurations of couples are the norm in our lives.
It was the adult nature of the service advertised. Certainly the majority of offending ads utilizing sex are heterosexual, and I’ve been writing letters of complaint about them since my teens in the San Francisco Bay Area (when I wasn’t volunteering at Planned Parenthood or campaigning against Reagan). But by focusing on these billboards, I’ve come to understand I inadvertently lent support to a “protect the kids against the gays” meme, which I truly despise and regret. And it wasn’t effective to focus on just that ad, because it put a big ugly obfuscating cloud over what I was really hoping to get across:
Children have a right to their childhood. Whether that’s a park to play in, healthy food to eat, safety from being trafficked or a sense of wonder, children deserve that tiny window of protective light if there’s any chance we’ll escape a “post-hope” future, a phrase I wish my son won’t hear until he’s older. But if he does, I’ll attempt to explain it an age-appropriate way, while fervently hoping he does not take the utter sadness of it to heart.
I want my son to be a person who treats himself and others with great respect and empathy. I believe living in a diverse and generally delightful urban environment supports that (SF, Atlanta and LA have been my only homes) as does protecting him from messages meant for adults until he is closer to being one. I refuse to believe those two things are mutually exclusive, or that the issue should be co-opted by the socially conservative. Trust me, the conversations have been happening in our home since he could talk (and the sex-positive comic books laying around since he could read).
But look, at our local , anyone who wants Hustler can buy it, which is okay, but the exploitive cover image is blocked from sight, which is also okay. And that helps me as a parent and is respectful to my kid. Which was my original point about the billboards. Now if they’d only do that with the gun magazines…
A couple of addendums: I want to commend many of the people who have chosen to discuss my piece on-line. Especially on JoeMyGod, the conversation has generally been very civil and nuanced and thoughtful. Even if I’m misunderstood, I find that inspiring.
And it’s worth noting that in my personal field poll, before and after publication, objections to the billboards broke out along age and parenting lines, rather than sexual orientation. If you were older and/or a parent, you had more of an issue than with them than if you were younger and/or childless. Which makes sense.