By Alissa Fang ‘12
You’ve probably seen them around the 5Cs: those technicolor posters headed by the words “Hey, hetero!” These brightly colored signs aim aggressive messages directly at heterosexuals. Confrontational statements emblazon seemingly innocent photos. They’re ironically subversive: one poster features an apparently Caucasian hetero-normative family on a picnic. The image seems harmless enough, but Mom and Dad are smirking at the viewer as the caption declares: “Hey, hetero! When they say family they mean you!”
This series of six posters is the product of a public art project by Australian artist Deborah Kelly and photographer Tina Fiveash. The posters have been steadily gaining publicity since their production in 2001, appearing in 30 different public advertising spaces in Sydney including billboards, magazines, newspapers, bus ads, art galleries and on the web. After they won the major arts award of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in 2001, the two artists began to spread their campaign internationally, presenting the posters in Berlin in 2002. Hey, hetero! aims to draw awareness to the privileges that heterosexuals may take for granted. Some of the heterosexual privileges addressed in the posters are marriage, child-rearing, and public displays of affection. The artists purposefully mock the style of mainstream advertisements and encourage public discussion about heterosexuality and the hetero-normative’s impact on the queer community.
For this year’s “Gaypril,” Harvey Mudd College’s student-run People Respecting Individuals’ Sexualities (PRISM) decided to distribute these Hey, hetero! posters, plastering them in dorms, in front of dining halls and classrooms throughout all the colleges. In bringing these posters to Claremont, PRISM has urged students to participate in debates and responses, creating a blog whose address was included on the posters in their Hey, hetero! campaign at Claremont—and a debate is what they got. The posters garnered controversial discourse on this blog not only from Claremont students but also from people at nearby colleges and graduate schools as well as 5C alumni. There was a wide range of feedback; people wrote e-mails to PRISM and posted on the blog with comments of anger, hurt, confusion and satisfaction.
Some people—straight and queer alike—expressed extreme disappointment with the posters, while others articulated a more positive reaction. A self-identified transgender and bisexual student expressed anger that the posters would actually drive allies away from the queer community, saying that the hostility of the messages makes heterosexual people feel guilty about being straight. A Mudd junior also commented with distress, accusing PRISM of having “a gay-bashing double agent as your distributor.”
On the flip-side, many individuals showed appreciation for the campaign. A straight alumnus expressed her enjoyment at being challenged by the posters. She wrote, “I think these are great call-outs of heterosexual privilege. I wish that people would use these as basis for a rational and enlightening conversation instead of a basis for just getting offended.” A separate discussion was sparked within the Hey hetero! thread which questioned the depiction and use of whiteness in the art. One Pomona student voiced her displeasure at the lack of people of color in the photographs.
In order to address those who were offended by the Hey, hetero! campaign, PRISM said that there could be supplemental posters that would further explain the content of the images, but this has not been confirmed.
To read more comments/reactions to the Hey, hetero! posters, go to www.heyhetero.blogspot.com.