Flat White

Facebook’s rainbow privilege

8 July 2017

9:29 AM

8 July 2017

9:29 AM

We’ve all seen it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock until recently Facebook offered a ‘Pride’ reaction you could use to react to pretty much anything: posts, statuses, Cory Bernardi’s new profile picture – you name it. I sure had a lot of fun with that little rainbow flag, as I’m sure many other social media trolls did; as well as those genuinely, well … proud of their sexuality.

I had no problem with it. But others did.

Before I go on, I’ll just point out a couple of things about myself. I’m a member of the Young Liberals. I am an advocate of fiscal responsibility, lean government and personal freedoms. But I wouldn’t consider myself a social conservative – certainly not a traditionalist. I don’t have a problem with gay marriage, and I probably never will. Others do, for a variety of reasons.

A friend of mine – let’s call him Mr Mad Conservative – went on a major Facebook rant about this Pride reaction. His status was, simply stated “f–k Facebook”, which I noted had about 20 pride reactions, from memory. That was quite funny to me.

So, wondering why exactly this upset Mr Mad Conservative so much, I had a look at his comments. Someone innocent bystander commented, asking what was wrong. MC replied with ‘I hate the bloody gay/lesbian pride symbol’ (this comment had EIGHT pride reactions, mind you!).

The Mad Conservative went on:

It’s all over my bloody Facebook.

Now every time I want to talk to my friends I have to think about bloody stupid homosexual propaganda created by our Facebook overlords.

Talk about pushing a political agenda.

They don’t even try to hide the brainwashing … it’s out in the open … re-education … etc, etc …

Now, once I got past laughing at the outrage, I considered his points.

To be clear, I certainly don’t think it’s any secret that Mark Zuckerberg, and his Silicon Valley compatriots, generally are left-leaning and progressive in their social views. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Firstly, why is it only now that Facebook does this? In one of the most politically divided times America alone is experiencing, is this blatant partisanship? Is this meant to be an act of corporate social responsibility Facebook only now thought of? Or, perhaps, it is an act of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community after the Orlando attack, among other horrific events, that only recently appeared?

Mark Zuckerberg’s statement on June 26, 2015 (which I do not recall as being released with a corresponding “reaction”), was this:

June is LGBT Pride Month — a moment to celebrate diversity and show our pride in the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to communities all over the world.

Facebook is a proud supporter of Pride, and employees in many countries are taking part in events and decorating our offices to show support. Here’s a photo of the sign at our headquarters. #PrideConnectsUs

Secondly, why not have a reaction for other groups? What makes LGBTQ+ so special? Why not have one for Black History Month, Ramadan, Women’s History Month, Father’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Independence Day, and others?

And since you cannot please every group and especially not every individual, why not take it a step further and allow people to customise their reactions? Or maybe not. Because everyone likes rainbows, right?

Which brings me to my third point. Yes, I’m a heterosexual white woman, so maybe it is permissible to roll your eyes when I say that I don’t feel any more ‘connected’ to anybody after using the Pride reaction rather liberally.

But why is it the case that such a small portion of the population gets to have their own ‘reaction’, but when Christians demand one it is deemed inappropriate? I’m not religious in the slightest, but facts are facts: there are billions of Christians in the world. However, in 2000 U.S. Census Bureau found that homosexual couples constituted less than one per cet of American households. In Australia’s latest census, homosexual couples constitute 0.02 per cent of the population.

Billions versus a tiny percentage and the latter group get their own Facebook reaction. Moreover, and perhaps more curiously, huge corporations feel the need to succumb to their cultural hegemony – even if it’s for a month.


Yes, I’m aware that you have the choice to like the page and receive the reaction. Like I said, even I liked the page and used the reaction. I support gay marriage and consider myself a social progressive. But a lot of people, including some Facebook users, don’t share my sentiments.

So, I suppose the question we must ask ourselves is this: does the Pride reaction signal a deeper, more pervasive ‘cultural hegemony’ of the gay community? Or is Mr Mad Conservative simply overreacting?

Marija Polic is a freelance writer and studies law at Sydney University.

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