February 13, 2009

Kiss-In on Ho Plaza Protests Sexuality Bias of Valentines Day

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Love — or, at least, lust — was in the air on Ho Plaza yesterday at 12:15 p.m. A group of roughly 20 students lined up to hold a colorful banner that read “QUEER KISSIN’ … in progress” and then proceeded have a queer kiss-in, which lasted about five minutes.
Direct Action to Stop Heterosexism sponsored the event, according to kiss-in participant Ashley McGovern ’09. She explained that heterosexism is “kind of like homophobia except heterosexism has to do with all facets of society … so the normalization of heterosexuality in society.”

[img_assist|nid=35098|title=A mouthful|desc=A group of students staged a kiss-in on Ho Plaza organized by Direct Action to Stop Heterosexism yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Heteronormativity refers to the idea that heterosexuality is the “normal” sexual orientation. This includes the notion that people fall into two discrete categories — male and female — and that sexual relations are normal only between two people of different sexes.
DASH didn’t necessarily have sweeping or profound aims for the kiss-in, according to McGovern.
“It was just supposed to be a fun action before Valentine’s Day, it wasn’t really a protest, it was more of a visibility thing … just letting people know people are queer on campus and not afraid to be affectionate … that was the goal — visibility and having fun,” McGovern said.
DASH had been planning the kiss-in for a couple of weeks. “It was just a spontaneous action,” explained McGovern, “Most of the student participants are in DASH, but some are just friends of people in DASH.”
According to McGovern, the kiss-in was for visibility, “… not just for non-queer people but also for queer people on campus who feel like they can’t come out. It’s fun to see a bunch of people kissing and feel affirmed.”
Ryan Swisher ’12 was on Ho Plaza selling roses for Valentine’s Day for his fraternity when the kiss-in took place.
“It was interesting. Not something I usually see on Ho Plaza,” he said. “It was definitely funny to watch, but it was also good to see the diversity on campus.”
Steve Gravani ’12, who also saw the kiss-in, said, “I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish by being out here today because I feel like they definitely raised awareness about their cause. But I’m not sure what their cause was, other than just that they were there.”
He suggested the group give more information about their cause.
“They were just out here holding a banner that said ‘queer kissing in progress’ and they were here for a few minutes, and then they just left. I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish so maybe some context [would] give it more meaning. But if they’re just out here supporting what they believe in, then more power to them.”
A. Blum ’09, participant and member organizer of DASH explained the aim was simply “to promote the visibility of queer presence on campus and also to make a statement that resistance is fun.
“It was a little mixture of fun, silliness and making a statement that there are queer people here and we’re not afraid to express ourselves publicly … even in spite of the fact that Valentine’s day, which is coming up, really capitalizes on this heteronormative love,” Blum added. “There’s always lots of publicity about doing things for your wife or your husband or your boyfriend or your girlfriend with an overtone of heterosexism, assumed heterosexism.”
McGovern believes heteronormativity is a nationwide problem.
“I think Cornell is probably better than a lot of parts of the country, but it’s definitely a nationwide problem,” McGovern said. “If you look at Prop. 8 that passed recently, or President Obama thinking it’s okay to invite an extremely homophobic speaker for his inauguration … It’s definitely a national issue. It’s not that big of an issue here, but it still is an issue. I still get dirty looks kissing my girlfriend on Ho Plaza or like with a group of people.”
“We’re also doing a lot of community organizing because a lot of our resources are at stake and DASH is kind of leading the way on organizing these meetings,” Blum said.
DASH plans to host more events in the future, including more kiss-ins, film screenings, a panel discussion and “a big spin-the-bottle in the middle of Ho Plaza.”
While DASH hopes to raise more awareness with yesterday’s kiss-in, ultimately it is also important to have fun.
“[The kiss-in] was fun. All resistance should be fun,” Blum said.
“We wanted to do it,” she said. “I mean, every impact you make is in the moment. It’s just part of a big cultural change: x-ing out heteronormativity and celebrating everything.”