Last Friday, I opened up Chrome to find the Google logo all decked out for the Olympic opening ceremonies.
However, rather than the typical Google color scheme, the designers had chosen a rainbow palette. In case this wasn’t obvious enough for the average Google user, the quotation from the Olympic Charter on the bottom of the page made it fairly evident.
“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit…”
Hey, Russia. Do you need some ice for that Olympic-sized burn? In all seriousness though, the year leading up to the Olympics has not been a good one for Russia’s PR team. Has anyone called Olivia Pope yet? According to a Huffington Post article from Nov. 26, Russia passed a law last summer prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.”
This legislation sparked controversy around the world, and gay rights activists started protesting both Russian products and the Olympics that are currently underway in Sochi. While Russia’s year might not have been so hot, meteorologically or otherwise, the gay community has certainly taken some steps forward. Putin may have been trying to stem the expansion of tolerance in mainstream culture, but instead, his actions may have been the best thing to happen for gay rights globally.
When he approved the law, Putin gave the world a bad guy. Having a common enemy brings people together. Just look at baseball — using the New York Y**kees as an example in Boston probably isn’t the most effective idea, but let’s give it a shot.
While the Yankees might be particularly hated here in Boston, nobody else is really a fan of them either. I live 1,000 miles away and the only team I hate more than the Yankees is the White Sox. For the baseball analogy, the reason is fairly evident: the Yankees have won the World Series more times than everyone else.
Seriously, they’ve won 27 times. Give someone else a chance, dudes. For those of you who aren’t fans of America’s pastime, it’s the same thing in football/soccer. Does anybody even like Manchester United?
The point here is not that Russia has won the most Sportsbowls, but rather that Putin has given people someone to root against. In the same way that no one wants to see the Yankees win another World Series, nobody wants to see Russia succeed with these measures.
Remember when all the bars were banning Russian vodka? Have you seen the recent Chobani yogurt commercials with the rainbow cups? (Side note: I didn’t know yogurt commercials came without a constipated, middle aged white lady in them) People and major corporations are uniting against these laws and are giving a new voice to this movement.
Think back to American History and the 1960s. Does the name Bull Connor ring a bell? Well, in case your brain is having one of those days, he ordered the release of the dogs on civil rights protesters when they came to Birmingham.
He also authorized the use of fire hoses on unarmed teenagers. Unfortunately for Connor, a cameraman captured footage the ensuing chaos … and then it was aired on national television. Connor became the face of racism and sparked national outrage. Shortly after the incident in Birmingham, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted due to public demand (and a host of other factors).
Putin has provided another face for gay rights activists to fight against. Sometimes it’s much easier to unite people against someone than for something. The Olympics in Sochi have brought up important questions about gay rights both at home and globally. No, the list of questions does not include, “What pants will the Norwegian curling team wear next?”
This controversy has demonstrated how far we have come. If this had happened 10 years ago, the vast majority of people probably would have shut up and ignored the situation all together. This is progress. We might not have achieved equality, but general outrage is usually a pretty good sign that something is about to happen.
I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bi, questioning, cis, trans or unlabeled. In the 21st Century we all have the right to love whoever the heck we want. Sure, it’s going to take some people a little bit longer than the rest of us to figure that out. Think how long it took people to realize that women should be considered equals (pause for gasps of horror). Some countries still haven’t figure that out. So, I guess this is a thank you to President Putin. With his help, we will make this world a little bit more fabulous.
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.