Anonymous Posters Attack College Republicans’ Ad Campaign

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.


  1. Wow, the College Republicans are extant again? I think they established and disbanded at least twice during my four years at Swat. Do tell more….

  2. To be fair, the sign doesn’t call the College Republicans homophobic (it makes a point of doing everything but that). If you read it closely, it says that the national Republican Party favors homophobic policies, and that adopting the language of the LGBT movement for a group associated with such policies hurts some people’s feelings. Those points are true, in so far as someone’s feelings were hurt enough for them to print up a bunch of signs.

    In my mind, a better question is why, at such a small school, we can’t address issues like this by talking directly to the people involved. That would be so much more productive. Also, as an aside, were the College Republicans *trying* to get their flyers destroyed? Putting dozens of identical, paper flyers on high traffic paths is a pretty good way to get them torn up (many would use chalk). And posting dozens of the same flyer side by side on high-demand boards in Shane. Also kinda dumb.

  3. Students on this campus are way too angry and critical of actions that may or may not be construed as offensive. Surely the Republicans on campus were not acting upon some sort of deeply rooted homophobia of the Republican Party, but instead were playing on the idea that, on a campus as liberal as ours, it is in a way (though not true in all cases) easier to come out as a homosexual than to admit you are a Republican. Considering the tagging of Republican posters all over the school, this idea is far from untrue. Though I do not personally think the Republicans on campus made the best choice by using this slogan as part of their campaign, I do believe that this action was harmless. Sometimes certain groups on campus need to realize that the fact that something can be taken as offensive does not necessarily imply prejudice.

    And, this is coming from a gay Swarthmore Democrat.

  4. We all know this campus is heavily Democratic, and there’s probably a large undercurrent of anti-Republican sentiment. Still, that doesn’t excuse this blatant attempt to curtail and de-legitimize the College Republicans. I thought the use of “come out” was very witty and clever, and while I’ll never be a republican (I come from one of the most liberal towns in the most liberal state in the Union), I respect their right to exist and be public.
    These posters smack of the same kind of knee-jerk demonization that homosexuals themselves face, and the hypocrisy in posting them is thick enough to cut with a spoon.

    Please, if you truly support liberal ideology, leave the Republicans alone. You may not agree with them, and I sure don’t either, but we can all agree that free speech is the most valuable right in this country.

  5. The College Republicans tore down the posters in response to their posters and then put up “If you believe in free speech don’t tear down or deface our posters” along with their other posters which dominate the bulletin space in the mail room. (This happened both times to anti-Republican posters were posted)

    I don’t really care how you feel about either set of posters, but the response from the College Republicans is absurd.

  6. I thought the signs were funny, and even open-minded, by embracing the differences on our campus. By incorporating coming out sayings, it seemed inviting of gays to the College Republicans, not insulting or prejudiced. I think the signs challenged the belief that a gay student would automatically belong to the Democratic party, along with the belief that students with non-liberal views aren’t welcome at Swarthmore. Unfortunately, the response to this has clearly shown the opposite.

    The knee-jerk liberal attitude we have at Swat can make it more difficult to announce political preference than sexual preference. I can’t even imagine someone coming out to their friends and getting a negative reaction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone declared their support for a conservative candidate, only to hear a disgusted “You’re a Republican?”

    The hostility toward the Republicans on campus is shocking and upsetting. Sure, I have completely different views on almost every debated issue, but that’s what they should be: debated issues. The anonymous bickering through sign posting is only going to divide us more; we should be talking openly to each other about these issues, both political and personal. The people being attacked on both sides are our classmates, hallmates, and friends. To my fellow Democrats- when is the last time you let a Republican friend defend their views? When is the last time you actually tuned in and gave their reasoning a chance? We can only say that we are agreeing to disagree if we actually sit down and hear each other out.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand the placement of the College Republicans signs. By taping them to the paths in front of McCabe and Sharples, you have to accept that they will get trampled and torn up. The two most stepped-on places on campus are not exactly the best places to put signs if you want them to remain untouched.

  7. I think there may be some confusion as to the destroyal of the College Republicans signs. The Republican response of “If you belive in free speech please do not deface of remove any Republican signs” was in reaction to the demeaning signs that were placed on top of Republican flyers of “It’s OK to Come Out.”

    I just wanted to clear up the debate as to why the Republicans asked not to have their signs removed or defaced. It had nothing to do with the signs on the walkways (which obviously were bound to be destroyed by feet), but everything to do with the multiple signs which were placed on top of Republican signs to “censor” them but in actuality did more to attack than they did to censor.

  8. Advertising is based on keywords in the page. Probably the ads are because the article is entitled “Republicans.”

  9. Why didn’t the anonymous poster-er object to Geek Coming Out week? I’ve never seen ANY complaints about that and that form of parody would seem much more offensive to her/his agenda considering the clear lack of seriousness around the idea of geek coming out. Republican identity is CLEARLY repressed on Swarthmore’s campus and has a much more legitimate claim to the “coming out” language than Geek Coming Out week. The poster-er him/herself seeks to repress Republican identity by demeaning all ties to the national Republican party.

  10. Geek Coming Out week is not a comparable case, because geeks do not have an official organization backing them up with an agenda that is laced with homophobia. Groups don’t own the right to a phrase and its meanings, but they can take offense when other groups with hateful agendas towards them own appropriate their slogans. Imagine if a racist group held a rally and the speaker began with, “I have a dream that one day all the blacks will leave America.” That would be an unbelievably offensive thing to say–to turn a phrase that is so powerfully positive and meaningful to the Black community to the benefit of a group that despises and threatens them. But if a speaker at a sci fi convention began a speech with, “I have a dream that one day Star Trek will once again rise from the ashes,” well, I guess it would be a little trivializing, but I wouldn’t think it would be a big problem.

    I also think that it’s a mistake to equate being a Republican on this campus with being a queer person in the outside world. Though I do understand that Republicans face a certain level of hostility here, they are also backed by a national organization that has a huge part in running the country, and essentially does control and run large chunks of the country. There is no international queer group with a similarly homogenized platform and with similar clout. Republicans have power that queer people do not. Furthermore, the simple act of being a Republican is not equivalent to being queer. Queerness is not a choice; it is an inherent part of a person’s being. Republicans are what they are by choices of opinion and behavior. To say that our questioning of these opinions and behaviors is as offensive as the way some question “queerness” distorts the meaning of being a truly marginalized person. I’m not saying that the way “debate” is directed at Republicans at Swat is always appropriate; I’m saying lets keep in mind the differences between what it means to be queer and what it means to be Republican.

  11. I feel that Abby’s arguments are much-needed extensions to the incredibly vague and badly-argued ones of the original anonymous posters. Having said that, I beg to differ with her second paragraph.

    Even if we accept that 1) the natures of being queer and of being Republican are inherently different, and that 2) institutional support for both are different, the experiential process of identifying as either queer or republican, as “coming out,” is more similar than different. Especially in Swarthmore.

    While we pride ourselves at being non-heteronormative than most, we forget that very often we are extremely libero-normative/Democratio-normative — a Republican at Swat publicly identifying as such faces very similar pressures to a queer person’s coming out in the outside world. While it is important to keep in mind the differences, the similarities between both experiences are more pertinent and striking in this particular case. The phrase has most certainly not been “misappropriated.”

    Some Swatties have to stop getting pissed (“hurt”) at every little thing they don’t like.

  12. Thank you, Abby, for being one of the first people to ACTUALLY address/read/contextualize the statements made by the counter-posters.

    “Coming out,” like you explain, isn’t something only queer people do; our own campus republicans apparently have to come out, too. The difference, though, is that Republicans (although they may feel this way at Swarthmore) don’t have to come out every day of their lives; they don’t have to constantly worry about the (potentially violent) implications of their identity.

    BUT, if it weren’t for coming out, then the gay communities that do exist (even if, lets face it, they’ll never reach the status of majoritarianism that Republicans present) would still be hidden in their proverbial closets. In this way, coming out should be understood as more complex than the Republicans make it seem; it’s not simple, it’s not pretty and it’s certainly not a luxury worth being co-opted by the type of people that make it necessary to come out!

    Maybe this is why certain people are so upset by the situation. Given the intense connection many queer people have with the TRADITION (because, let’s not forget, it’s one of the only universally shared TRADITIONS queer people have!), it isn’t surprising to me that anybody could be upset by a group complicit in the marginalization of queer people–forcing the conditions under which coming out is a necessity–appropriating one of the traditions used to undermine our very marginalization.

    And I dare anybody to pretend that it’s easier to be gay at Swarthmore than it is to be Republican. Last time I checked I hadn’t heard of any Swarthmore Republican’s cat-called after, or threatened with violence (and believe me when I say these things are more common at Swarthmore than people think). And I’m not even going to begin to put this debate into larger context, like outside Swarthmore, where this type of appropriation is even more unacceptable.

  13. I hate to get into a debate over the internet, but I had to respond to your characterization of the Republican party. I certainly do not consider myself a Republican, but it grinds my gears when Swatties or others automatically dismiss groups they dislike with name-calling. Saying that the Republican party has a hateful agenda towards queer persons is one of those negative association that eliminates any possibility of reasonably looking at what they actually believe. I assume you are referring to the party’s official opposition to same-sex marriage (or at least I think it is official, but I don’t know if that really matters), which springs more from a difference of opinion on the definition of marriage then hatred. Yes, some people probably oppose same-sex marriage because they hate queer people, but that is not the Republican party’s stance. It’s like saying that someone hates African-Americans because they oppose affirmative action. Some people might oppose affirmative action because that hate African Americans, but it’s unfair to project that onto all who oppose it.

    And whereas you are right that there is a difference of scale, Republicans are a marginalized group on campus. Geeks are not . I think we can both agree that a reasonable person can hold the position that the College Republican use of the phrase somehow honors its power for marginalized groups. Geek Coming Out week does nothing BUT trivialize it. It seems like the only reason people don’t object to that but do object to college republicans is their distaste for the group.

  14. I think the major issue here isn’t so much that there was criticism as much as the manner in which it was done. Rather than email the College Republican leadership about the nature of the flyers and bring their concerns directly to the source, those that put the flyers up did it in a deliberately confrontational way, almost to make a tempest in a teapot as it were. The goal here, at least as it seems to me, was not to address an offense as much as raise the ire of the entire campus against the Campus Republicans. Instead of quietly getting the manner resolved, there have been 2 Daily Gazette articles, Daily Jolt posts, and probably something in the Phoenix. This seems to have been a deliberate attempt to create a controversy and it seems to have succeeded…

  15. I think that only deliberate blindness towards the clear policies and stances of the Republican party could lead a person to say that their agenda towards the queer community is not hateful. Leading party members have made blatantly homophobic public statements with nary a peep from the Party or the Party leadership–in fact, it is often the Party leadership that makes these statements. Rick Santorum’s famous comparison of homosexuality to bestiality is just one example. (And I would like to emphasize that Santorum held the #3 Republican leadership position in the Senate at the time.) I realize that not everything an individual Republican says represents the Party platform. But when official representatives of the Party make homophobic statements that the Party either affirms or fails to comment on (which I would regard as tacit affirmation, since Parties will usually disavow statements made by their members that are viewed as too far out of line), I think it’s fair to reflect those statements on the Party itself.

    I also have difficulty seeing why people would wish to exclude gays from marriage for any reason other than homophobia. If you think the state should get out of the business of regulating marriage altogether, then I could see someone opposing gay marriage and not being homophobic. But that’s not the Republican position. Marriage no longer simply stands for the creation of children; marriage no longer means a religious affirmation to a God that doesn’t like queer people; marriage no longer means anything which, in my opinion, precludes the participation of gay couples in the state institution. Statements like “gay marriage dilutes the meaning of marriage,” “the state should not condone gay relationships” are homophobic, and these are the positions frequently articulated by the Republican Party and its representatives.

    Finally (and I know this is going on forever–sorry), as to the point that the person who fliered handled this poorly, I would also like to point out that the Republican Club posters were also anonymous–there was no information given for whom to contact with questions, concerns, information, etc. Given that it would be reasonable for a queer person to have reservations at appearing in person at a meeting to criticize people whom he/she had no reason to believe were allies, I think the flyering was reasonble.

  16. I’d just like to affirm that when people speak of the Republican party’s homophobic policies, locating it in their opposition to gay marriage, is like saying historically conservative Southern Republicans were racist only because they didn’t want integrated schools. To understand the real complexity of the ways that cultural groups, homosexuals included, are marginalized and silenced means thinking bigger than that (something, I’m afraid, most people at Swarthmore aren’t able to do when it comes to queer issues).

    There is a difference between political and cultural marginalization (formal and informal citizenship, formal and informal ways of belonging), both reinforcing the other. When we say the Republicans are homophobic, then, what we’re really talking about (and I’ll try to provide a list here so maybe people can begin to understand what homophobia really means) is a huge issue that transcends the party’s opinion on gay marriage. Here’s just a few examples:
    1. gay marriage (most obvious) and the right to adopt/rear children, along with all the other 271 (just one of the figures, which changes from state to state) political rights denied to individuals, gay or not, who do not marry,
    2. abstinence only sex education (or any other variety of sex-education that actually limits the amount of knowledge being circulated about safe-sex practices) and the lack of availability of condoms and other safe-sex materials in publicly funded institutions, like schools. If queer people are some of the highest at-risk groups for HIV/AIDS, to limit the knowledge about how to be safe AND sexually active is like handing over a death warrant, or at least turning your head and giving a shit about.
    3. censorship/obscenity laws (both historical and contemporary) that operate on “community standards.” There is, as of yet, not a community composed mostly of queers. For this reasons, queer art, film, demonstrations, etc. have often been censured because of their inherent obscenity, offensiveness or general distaste.
    4. State-by-state standards that prevent trans people from legally changing their gender status,
    5. The exclusion of homosexuals from the armed forces,

    The list really could go on for much longer. The point is people need to start contextualizing the ways in which being homophobic, like being queer, isn’t JUST about a stance on the intimacy of queer people. Actions can be deemed homophobic, if we look at them critically enough, in ways that transcend government regulation of publicly-recognized forms of intimacy (that is, gay marriage) and really help to point to the POLITICAL CULTURE of intolerance that breeds homophobia, racism, sexism, etc. from many of the same political and cultural apparatuses.

    p.s. and how about we stop addressing what we assume to be the “intent” of the posters (deliberate attempt to create controversy…attack republicans…whatever you want to call it). I’m sure if any of you took the time to actually talk to anybody who supports the anti-posters, you’d find that their hope is for PUBLIC dialogue, not just with the Republicans, but about how Swarthmore, as much as we like to isolate it from the outside world, IS THE OUTSIDE WORLD and as such Republicans cannot ignore their place in the bigger picture, just like queers can’t.

    Maybe THIS is why they’re bringing it up, so they can feel safe and tolerated here as much as they’d like elsewhere. Given the extremely negative response to their actions (or past actions of queer people, what Rafael calls a “victim mentality” that necessitates the construction of our own drama), therefore, it doesn’t surprise me they kept it anonymous. If people had attached their names to this project, the level of sensationalization and personal attacks would far outweigh any hope for real political or cultural dialogue. I mean seriously, guys, if there’s so much drama around chalkings (with the past two years escalating), could you have expected anything different from a cultural group that feels silence and marginalized any time they try to demonstrate who they are publicly.

    if you don’t like queer people and all that they stand for (and I’m saying queer here instead of gay or lesbian—-don’t get the distinction, look it up, and it’s not just about being more inclusive), then don’t co-opt the language, and don’t come to the Sager party (one of the only places where public sexual expressions are not only celebrated but encouraged) all dolled up, potentially even cross-dressed, and acting bat-shit-crazy because it’s just the wildest and craziest place to do something you normally wouldn’t do, and don’t pretend like queer people are good and ok as long as they keep their mouth shut! It’s all or nothing, kids, and that includes being aware of your own complicity (whether Republican, Democratic, Christian or athiest) in our oppression.

    As long as heterosexuality remains the norm against which all public expressions of intimacy are judged (and if the Republican party remains, this will surely be the case), then it’s not ridiculous to fight against the appropriation of our “non-normative” practices. If the norm keeps absorbing the aspects of the abnormal they like, but continue to restrict the inclusion of “abnormal” people in the norm, then nothing will be left for us from which to build a culture and sense of self. This, then, is why the issue is so important.

    Still don’t get it, maybe do some reading?

  17. I’m glad I found this discussion — it appears to be mostly productive, unlike the one that’s emerging in the comments of today’s article.

    May I request a point of clarification? Homophobia has always been described to me as a fear of either homosexuality or homosexual individuals. At Swarthmore, the definition usually is phrased to encompass all non-heterosexual orientations, not just homosexuality.

    Here, however, it seems that the last two commenters are defining the term as all prejudice against non-heterosexual people, then applying it to all discriminatory behavior conducted at the expense of a group defined by their non-heterosexual orientation.

    I don’t think that these three possible definitions are equivalent. If the fear definition is not what the queer community actually means by the word homophobia, that could explain several instances where I have previously felt the word was being misused. In that case, it might be good for queer communities to reconsider how to better explain the intended concept, since the intended definition seems rather non-obvious.


  18. I would like to return to Abby’s first paragraph of her first response (Thanks for providing substance for the argument, again- that’s awesome). I understand your point, and I cannot really argue that it is wrong, because it’s a fair opinion, but I disagree. Saying that Geek Coming out week is ok and Republican appropriation of the term is not amounts to saying that one group can say something and one group cannot. Your analogy is flawed a) because being a college republican that has links to a diverse political party of many positions is not the same as being a member of a white power group, which is SPECIFICALLY dedicated to discrimination, when the College Republicans’ main agenda pieces are probably defense and economics, as JBS outlines in another post, and b) because the two “I have a dream speeches” are not the same because of the different clauses used, where the “Coming out language” is essentially identical between geeks and republicans.

    Your case for why it is wrong for Republicans to appropriate the LGBT movement’s language stands or falls on the assertion that to be Republican is to be a bigot. Having spoken to many of the College Republicans on campus, I can assure you, they would rather that Rick Santorum hadn’t made those horrendously offensive (and perhaps we can someday, when a lot of time has passed, see them as hilarious) comments about Queer people. Your characterization of the Republican Party at large, based on the bigotry of some aspects of its leadership, is unfair. Anyway, I understand you being offended, but I think the rationalization is a little contorted.

    P.S. The College Republicans have to have a lot of faith in their party to stick with it during the ascendancy of the anti-intellectual, progress, and democratic Christian right. But maybe we can remember a better day, when Barry Goldwater- oh wait he was against civil rights, but on grounds of state/federal issues… or a future when John McCain takes the party in a new direction. Good for them.

  19. I certainly hope we never reach a time where ‘Not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever’ or ‘I have a problem with homosexual acts…And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.’ are “hilarious”.

  20. Sorry, Seth, it’s not the same. One of the reasons I so strongly dislike the republican party is because of its sometimes tacit, sometimes explicit support of the repression of queer people. To use language that traditionally supports a repressed group to say that it’s OK to support an organization that represses that group is hurtful.

    One of the main reasons that I, and I believe many Swarthmore students, are so appalled by republicans is because they are willing to support a party that takes part in this repression. For a queer person to see the sign, think it is for supporting them, and find that it is saying it’s OK to be a member of a party that supports their oppression, is hurtful, whether you think that is legitimate or not.

    I don’t think the republicans were wrong to put up these flyers, but I think they should have thought twice before putting them up, and certainly not torn down the responses, an action which continues to tell queer people to keep their opinions to themselves.

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