Last week, two Australian teens decided to send a message to the Australian government about their anti-marriage equality views. Their method? One thousand rainbow-painted potatoes.
Will Richards and Dan Buttson are the co-founders of a business called Potato Messenger, which allows people to pay $10 for a handwritten message on a potato to be mailed to the recipient of their choice. A few weeks ago, the pair started a Kickstarter with the goal of raising $15,000 to send 1000 rainbow potatoes to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott. After Abbott was ousted from his position two weeks ago, they changed their plan to creating a Pride flag from potatoes instead.
Having gained some internet fame from their Potato Messenger business, Richards and Buttson hoped to use their connections and exposure to make a statement about an issue they consider important. This is absolutely admirable, especially from a pair of teenagers. Their methods, however, leave something to be desired.
The money spent on 1000 potatoes (which is presumably far less than the initial $15,000 they hoped to raise) could have been spent in a number of other ways more helpful to the LGBT community: supporting individuals’ gender transitions, financing activist groups, and so forth. I also take issue with the use of food to make such a statement, as it seems a waste.
Again, while the sentiment is commendable, the action itself reminds me of the “relentlessly gay” yard Kickstarter in June. A straight woman raised over $40,000 to decorate her yard rainbow, when that money could have been used by LGBT homeless shelters, health centers, and more. Painting something rainbow does not make it a pro-LGBT rights statement. It is an empty gesture and one that only makes allies feel better about their activism without making any significant difference.
I am, of course, pleased to see teenagers speaking out against Australia’s lack of marriage equality. It is abominable that Australia remains the only large English-speaking country that has not yet legalized same-sex marriage. However, such gestures need to be done with more purpose than flair. Painted potatoes aren’t going to change the laws. Focused, persistent activism just might.