On Thursday night our group “Queers Against Injustice” targeted an ANZ GAYTM with pink paint symbolising pinkwashing, attaching an accompanying manifesto outlining our reasons.
When we woke up we found articles by the NZ Herald and Stuff.co.nz reporting the GAYTM had been attacked with white paint and quoting passers-by as being offended at the homophobia implicit in the vandalism.
This “vandalism” was represented as unethical and homophobic in all media representations. The perpetrators were described as “ignorant” and “intolerant”. All the reporting on the GAYTM ignored the political nature of this “vandalism” and framed it as homophobic. This misrepresentation happened through a lack of awareness on the part of the reporters supported by probable concealment of the accompanying message by ANZ, who tweeted a photo of the GAYTM with the poster on the ground.
Pinkwashing, a term we defined and outlined in the attached poster, describes the way that institutions co-opt LGBT struggles to distract from and disguise unethical behaviour.
We targeted the Ponsonby GAYTM firstly to draw attention to the commercialisation of the Pride Festival. As queer subjects, we object to the representation of queer identity in terms of consumptive and wealthy citizens. Associating queer politics with personal banking within a gentrified area reduces the queer subject to a bourgeois, cis-gender, white, male subject, and in doing so reproduces many of the intersecting injustices by which queer subjects are marginalised. We sought to draw attention to the lack of representation of bodies that counter the racist, classist and cis-biased nature of Pride.
By renaming their ATM a GAYTM, ANZ reproduces the frequent sidelining of queer subjects who fall outside of the ‘gay’ sexual identification, and as a result are further marginalised by the politics of ‘tolerance’ practiced by institutions such as ANZ.
Secondly, we sought to draw attention to the way ANZ is using GAYTMs to distract attention from the treatment of their workers. The recent strikes by ANZ workers occurred in response to ANZ’s attempts to implement demands for ‘flexibility’, in the form of irregular rostering and frequently shifting labour demands. These proposed reforms attack workers’ rights to control their own time outside of their normal work hours, and constitute an assault on precious family time, time in the community, on religious or personal lifestyle choices, and the dignity of autonomy.
We understand that the political and theoretical discourse that foregrounds the intersectional basis of queer subjectivity, attending to the ways race, class and gender cooperate with and exacerbate queer oppression, is often overlooked in favour of a positive outlook. This outlook attempts to portray queer identity as purely fun, consumptive and nationalistic, and in doing so bars critique from within.
We can understand the media’s interpretation of this as a homophobic act, because being an angry queer subject who disagrees with the co-opting of our identity is irregular in the face of Pride’s projected homonormative and aforementioned presentation of the queer figure.
However, the immediate interpretation of our act as homophobic vandalism, rather than as critique from queer subjects themselves, reflects the heteronormative discourse that truly permeates our society. The media has assumed from the outset that we are not queer, an assumption we have become used to in the heterosexual society we are made to live, yet which we are also incredibly sick of.
It is disheartening that the representation of our symbolic pinkwashing of the GAYTM has been manipulated into an act of hatred and complicity. This misrepresentation reinforces the image of tolerance that ANZ has spent a lot of money marketing to us. It is very difficult to learn that the representation of our action has produced feelings of pain amongst the queer community. We intended for our action to function as a reminder of the oppression still faced by countless humans globally: from those in Palestine subjected to pinkwashing by the Israeli state, to working class subjects around the world forced into precarious situations by the capitalist economy.
We encourage all queer subjects to remember that, despite the gains of Pride, discrimination will continue to exist for many others both outside and within our community and what would truly create a semblance of pride is the dismantling of all hatred.
Kia kaha and expresions of tautoko to all subjects both queer and straight who seek this same agenda.