I really don’t know how to react to this. To me it’s a sign of what “activism” has come down to in the land of TEH GAY. Isn’t it an interesting juxtaposition to see that HRC’s Joe Solmonese has made Washington Life Magazine‘s 2010 Fashion Awards (“We salute 35 men and women who bring that je ne sais quoi to the ballrooms and boardrooms of Washington“).

ELEGANT ACTIVIST: Joe Solmonese. The president of the Human Rights Campaign favors designers Ann Demeulemeester, Billy Reid, and Dolce and Gabbana.

Well, plenty of us here in flyover country have very little je ne sais quoi about fashion and more working to do as much activism on a shoestring and the kindness of those who support the work on the Blend through PayPal or ads. Taking a look in my closet, I don’t see a label of note on my togs, I gather many of you don’t either. The closest I get to haute couture as an advocacy journalist/commentator is watching Project Runway in my jammies. I can clean up nicely for a gala, but honest to god, I have better use for my disposable income. Guess HRC must write off Joe’s togs; who knows.

I guess it’s just a different game up in DC; or maybe not.  Dan Choi wasn’t the one of the best dressed gay men in DC the other day as he sat in jail along with former Army captain Jim Pietrangelo — and roaches scurrying around their cell, so I take it that it’s not a job requirement to be an activist or advocate with that je ne sais quoi unless you spend more time in ballrooms and boardrooms “for the cause,” as it were.

I’m pretty sure Dr. King didn’t need designer togs when he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize, but I guess times were different then. You know, the whole dogs and hoses thing would do damage to Dolce and Gabbana wear. Maybe HRC donors want its leader to have fashion sense, and feed into the notion that we’re all rich and ready to schmooze, as opposed to a less ostentatious model of what gay leadership is in 2010.

Am I making too much of this — is this third rail class issue worthy of discussion, or is it just one of those things we just have to accept about our movement — that image-making and presentation is seen as more critical to impressing people than humility, grace, dignity and concern for others. It’s pretty clear the HRC brand doesn’t scream “grassroots” activism in the least; does it need to? I mean take a look at this invitation received by the Blend. This is how money is raised – we’re not talking targeting small-dollar donations from someone at risk for being fired from the Dairy Queen in a Red State for being gay.

“The National Capital Area Federal Club

in partnership with Bloomingdale’s & DC Men’s Luxury

invite you to a Private Fashion & Cocktail Reception

Wednesday, April 7

7-9 pm

The Men’s Store on 3

Bloomingdale’s Chevy Chase

Join us in support of The Human RIghts Campaign to see this Fall’s most in-demand men’s clothing fresh off of the runway. During the event, 10% of all sales from purchases made throughout the store will be donated to The Human Rights Campaign.”

I’m just wondering if there’s an internal perception problem or blindness to how this sort of thing might be perceived. Or, as I said, it’s just a thing of the past and we’re expected to pay to have our voice on the Hill be a fashion plate because it’s necessary.

Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this. I’m just thinking out loud here, not really editing my thoughts, because this really isn’t about waging class warfare so much as trying to figure out what the identity of our movement should be embodied by in terms of branding and representation. A movement that exudes confidence — can it be represented in a less material way? Does more ostentatious branding hurt because it projects that the group in question, LGBTs, aren’t really suffering in terms of civil rights and therefore don’t require urgent action by the President or Congress.

Because our movement is broad economically, how big is the perception gap regarding discrimination and suffering within the movement between those in a higher demographic class and those at the lowest end of the pay scale?  Does that affect the assertiveness of lobbying and brokering of deals with political peers when dealing with our rights?

These questions are rarely dealt with primarily because of the tensions that arise on both sides of the economic continuum when it comes to class and how it affects the struggle for equality. You’ll never get the gay haves to say that the have-nots are not adequate representatives of our movement because those at the bottom of the economic scale lack a level of education, access, experience, money and cultural commonality that  those at the top share. That in itself — the discomfort at the thought of opening up the class system for examination — only solidifies the notion that they don’t want to go there. It’s too land-mine-laden. And for those not in the social stratosphere, it’s easy to lob potshots at those at the top for making what seems like clueless decisions based on class blindness.

I guess my question is are we all fighting the same fight from very different points of view that make it difficult to understand what a logical, sane strategy for success is when it comes to our movement’s branding?

Hat tip, Americablog.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding