The visibility professionals: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the cultural politics of mainstreaming

2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

Based on archival research, in-depth interviewing, and extensive participant observation carried out over two years in both New York and Los Angeles, this ethnography of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) critically examines the professionalization of a media advocacy organization and interrogates the value of visibility in contemporary sexual politics. On what and whose terms has the visibility of gays and lesbians been conceptualized and negotiated, and with what consequences for movement politics? How has GLAAD responded to movement tensions between legitimationist and liberationist approaches to social and cultural change? What is the nature of GLAAD's relationships with the media industries and with other movement agents and organizations? What representations does the leading cultural advocate for the gay and lesbian movement help (re)produce and, in the process, which political constituencies does it represent?

I approach GLAAD as a positioned organization in the movement and media fields, in Pierre Bourdieu's sense of the word, in which various agents with stakes in the representation of gays and lesbians compete for various kinds of capital. I describe how, as a result of field positioning objectives, corporate media professionals have come to dominate efforts by the gay and lesbian movement to improve the representation of sexual minorities in mainstream culture. This professionalization has tended to produce normalized representations of gays and lesbians and has fundamentally altered the relationships between the gay and lesbian movement and the media, leading to unprecedented levels of integration. While this integration has contributed greatly to GLAAD's fundraising and institution-building objectives, it has not necessarily led to more influence in the media advocacy system, especially in periods of conflict, and may in fact have made it more difficult for the gay and lesbian movement to advocate effectively on behalf of diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies.

Indexing (details)

Mass media;
Political science
0708: Mass media
0615: Political science
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Cultural politics; Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; Mainstreaming; Media advocacy; Visibility professionals
The visibility professionals: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the cultural politics of mainstreaming
Doyle, Vincent A.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
0542382687, 9780542382680
Henderson, Lisa
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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