Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It Gets Better: Google Employees’ “Hope”

“There’s no-where to go but up; it will eventually get better for you with time.” This is the overarching message that the “It Gets Better” videos found all over the Internet contain; the concept that personal suffering related to LGBT experience will diminish with time and acceptance from the environments that surround an individual. Upon searching for the perfect “It Gets Better” video, one that represented a myriad of intersectionalities in terms of queerness, race, disability, age, location, gender, but had no such luck. I watched video upon video of personal testimonies, individual experiences and stories of overcoming adversities that were shaped by queer identities, until I stumbled upon “It Gets Better: Google Employees; Facebook Employees; and Apple Employees”. These videos display “messages of hope” from employees of perhaps the top three most- influential corporations of the century, yet I found myself being disappointed with the choices of visibility and fundamental concepts that these fortune-500 companies chose to exhibit. It gets better, but for whom? For people who escape their rural, conservative neighborhoods for metropolises in California, New York, and abroad (Gray, 2007)? Does it get better for those who aren’t able to attend college, or serve as miniature geniuses that are hired to these elite conglomerates? Does it get better for the disabled, the elderly, or the minorities who lack the educational and structural resources that allow them to escape to “a better life”(Clare, 2001)? What I want to know is, who exactly does it get better for, and why are we having to change ourselves homonormatively in order to be accepted in our hegemonic, heteronormative society (Dodson, 2012)? 
The fundamental problem I have with the “It Gets Better” videos relies not in the good intention that these personal testimonies may include, but rather, the lack of celebrating one’s self as “irrevocably different”, thus shedding the shame and personal hatred that results from societal oppression (Clare, 2001). Our identities do not depend on the amount of money that we accrue, the education that we obtain, or the personal decision of fleeing our rural or suburban roots for a more diverse metropolis: “Identity can live in many places all at once- in the communities we make home, the food we eat, the music we play and dance to, the work we do, the people we feel wild and passionate about, the languages we speak, the clothes we wear” (Gray, 2007; Claire, 2001).Our identities aren’t fixed, static states of being, but rather, fluid and porous; the lack of exhibiting the concept of embracing queer experiences in opposition of society defining what is deemed “normal, worthy, or accepted” is what I feel “It Gets Better: Google/Facebook/Apple Employees” directly fails to address. In further analysis, for a person who is disabled, watching this video might discourage their sense of self, as all of the testimonies came from able-bodied employees, thus allowing the view that disabled people’s bodies are been stolen and seen as wrong, broken, or tragic in our society to perpetuate through lack of representation and visibility in our work force (Clare, 2001). 
Several of the personal stories that were shared in the “ITB: Google Employees” video portrayed the idea that in moving away from conservative, less busy, suburban or rural areas would lead you to the hustle and bustle of city life, giving you increased opportunities of acceptance and hope for a better life: “You feel this magnetism like you’re never gonna get out, you’re never going to go anywhere. It [living in a small town] draws you in, you feel like there’s no hope, that no one will ever understand you (Google employee, 2010).” This metronormative perception directly relates to Mary Gray’s article, “From Websites to Wal-Mart”, where she writes, “Perhaps the overriding reason for our surprise at the sheer publicness and brash visibility of LGBT youth in Christian bookstores and Wal-Marts is that rural environments are presumed to be (more) hostile to queer desires and genders and, therefore rural LGBTQ-identifying youth must have already left their small towns for the big city” (Gray, 2007). Reclaiming spaces, whether they are located in more isolated, country areas, or suburban towns is essential for empowering queer youth to embrace the present, rather than yearn for an idealized future revolving around escape. I understand the “IGB: Google employees” video’s aim to motivate queer youth toward success, but I felt hesitant due to the reality of those who might not be able to afford college, move to the big city, or get hired by one of the top corporations in the world. In the future, I will choose to glorify alternative videos that uplift queer experience through invigorating the current; providing optimism for modern struggles through reclaiming a diverse collection of identities, in varying locations and assorted socio-economic spheres.

Clare, Eli. "Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness" Popular Culture 13(3) 359-365. 2001
Dodson, Leigh. “Queer Rurality, Working Class Queer Cultures, and Queer Anti-Urbanism.” Fem 80. Girvetz, Santa Barbara. 2/22/12. Lecture.
Gray, Mary “From Websites to Wal-Mart: Youth, Identity Work, and the Queering of Boundary Publics in Small Town, USA” American Studies, Volume 8

Better in Tech. (2010, October 10). It Gets Better: Google Employees. Retrieved February 27, 2012, from

1 comment:

  1. I couldn’t agree more with everything that was stated. The “It Gets Better” campaign has great intentions, but they are failing when it comes to showing diversity within the queer community. This idea that “it gets better” is being focused on those able-bodied, educated and urban established individuals, but ignored disabled rural setting individuals, as well as others. I personally use to have the state of mind that it would get better in high school, once I moved out of my rural home and came to UCSB. It’s true, it has gotten better and so I assumed it would get better for everyone else to, but it was not until recently that I realized that it was because I moved to a more urban setting and that when ever I decided to go back home, I would be thrown back into this world where I would have to hide who I was all over again. From personal experiences, it came down to this idea of “La Familia” that Alamaguer brings up in his article when it comes to the queer Latino community. One is not willing to choose to be openly queer since “the openly effeminate Chicano gay man’s rejection of heterosexuality is typically seen as a fundamental betrayal of Chicano patriarchal cultural norms” (Almaguer 118). Choosing to break this cultural norm is choosing to go against ones cultural roots, which can typically lead to rejection from one’s family, since any type of queer related identity “challenge the very foundation of “la familia” (Almaguer 118). If someone from a Latino rural setting were to create an “It Gets Better” video, it would make a greater impact to those that could relate. This same idea can help pave the way towards doing the same for any other type of identity.

    Tomas Alamaguer “Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual; Identity and Behavior” in Social Perspective in Gay and Lesbian Studies ed. Peter Me Nardi and Beth Schneider, 1998.