La Mega Action. Buena Amiga Cathy Chang with Avengers looking on.

Role of Media: Love and Hate

Media played an important role in the Lesbian Avengers. One article actually characterized them as "a protest outfit formed to attract media attention to lesbian causes." Besides shaping actions for visual impact, there were committees dedicated to outreach and "propaganda." The Lesbian Avenger Handbook offered a step by step guide on the processes necessary to attract press attention from mainstream and lesbian and gay media, even examples of press releases.

They got mixed results. While the group was featured in the 1993 Eloise Salholz Newsweek article, The Power and the Pride, and actions were occasionally included on local news broadcasts, the Lesbian Avengers were often ignored.

In her discussion of the 1994 International Dyke March, There was a dyke march? journalist Amy C. Brenner discussed how, despite enormous outreach and the several thousand marchers that attended the event, the event was barely mentioned by the media. Of the fifty articles covering the Stonewall anniversary celebrations in the New York Times, the Dyke March and the several thousand lesbians that attended the event only got nine lines. "Nothing was mentioned in the Washington Post...or the Chicago Tribune...or the Los Angeles Times."

"Conflicts over the handling of the press coverage of the Dyke March also occurred within the New York gay and lesbian political community. In an interview, Simo said that a press release sent out by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) after Stonewall 25 initially did not have anything in it about the Dyke March. After the Avengers brought this issue to GLAAD's attention, one line was added to the end of the press release about the lack of mainstream press coverage about the Dyke March."

Aware of the power of the press, the Lesbian Avengers sometimes didn't court it, but attacked it. They invaded the offices of Self magazine when that publication planned a trip to Colorado despite a lesbian and gay boycott of the state for hate legislation, and in the resulting media coverage were misnamed "The Lesbian Agenda."

The Avengers also collaborated with Las Buenas Amigas and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change in a series of actions against homophobic and racist radio programs at the Spanish-language La Mega 97.9 in New York, and its parent company, the Spanish Broadcasting System. After a solo action briefly taking over the radio station and broadcasting their own message, the Avengers worked intensively with the two other groups to inform advertisers, stage a march and demonstration, and leaflet black and Latino neighborhoods.

Not all their media efforts were directed outward. While the Lesbian Avengers focused on becoming visible in society and changing stereotypical images of lesbians, they worked just as hard to change the way lesbians saw themselves.

The communiqués gave activism the cachet of cool. "Look how much we're getting done, and how much fun we're having while we do it." Lesbian Avenger parties not only raised money but exploded the images of lesbians as sexless wallflowers or closeted pervs. With party flyers featuring icons like blaxploitation star Pam Grier with a rifle, or aproned housewives putting a bomb on platter instead of a cake, Avengers were selling the idea that lesbians didn't have to be ashamed of their toughness and anger, or afraid of sex.

A Few References

Lesbian Avenger Handbook: A Handy Guide to Homemade Revolution

Salholz, Eloise. The Power and the Pride, Newsweek, 1993-06-21.

Myers, Steven Lee. IDEAS & TRENDS; How a 'Rainbow Curriculum' Turned Into Fighting Words. New York Times, 1992-12-13.

McKinley, Jr., James C., "Organizing a City: A Celebration From A to Z" New York Times, 1994-06-19.

Branner, Amy C. There was a dyke march? Off Our Backs, Aug. 1994

Brozan, Nadine. Chronicle, New York Times, 1993-01-27.

Simo, Ana. Is Spanish Radio Training Bigots? The Gully online magazine, 2001-08-04.

Duques, Andrés, A visit with the radio shock-jocks of El Vacilón de la Mañana 2007-11-16.

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