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Is the White Knot the New Red Ribbon?


My friend Frank Voci started as a visibility symbol for this new civil rights awakening we're seeing right now, a symbol for the belief in equal rights and non-discrimination for all people. He writes: "Whether you are gay or straight, please show your support by wearing the knot and telling people why you are wearing it. It may seem like a small thing, but imagine the white knot gaining the pervasiveness and instant recognition of the AIDS Ribbon. We can do it!"

Thousands of them were distributed at rallies last weekend. Here are instructions on how to make your own.

The AIDS ribbon certainly became a powerful symbol of solidarity and remains so today. A white knot seems an appropriate symbol using the language of marriage.

WhiteKnot [official site]

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  1. Frank Voci,

    thank you for taking the time to explain what I know you believe should have been an obvious statement with a knotted white ribbon. I think I had a good idea what you intended; but after all the controversy over the issue of race and Proposition 8, I wanted to suggest that some people may have a different view of the sympolism. At first I was stunned.

    Some black gay people will welcome your well-intended symbolism and participate, some will not use that symbolism because of reasons you did not intend.

    "All this hostility is unnecessary..."

    D, if you think that this discussion has been too full of hostility, please check the other topics that deal with race and gay marriage rights on Towleroad. No, some of us who've been emotionally tried by the whole discussion of black voters and Proposition 8 are leary of anything that could be construed as racially divisive. White ribbon symbolizes weddings, not oppression of white gay men--ok, I accept that.

    "...rather than simply taking the easy route of criticizing."

    Yes, CARSON, that is why black gay people have been trying to explain to white gay people that in the aftermath of a racially volatile moment in American history, the innocent act of using a white ribbon may have different meanings for different folks. Believe me, it is not an "easy route" --it has been fucking exhausting.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 19, 2008 3:22:50 PM

  2. My concern is that we leave ourselves wide open to criticism about our mono-issue outlook on the world. White ribbons have been a tradition for a number of years - as is White Ribbon Day - for men to demonstrate their opposition to violence against women.

    Happy for people to deal with two issues at once, but do so mindfully... I'd hate for a woman to come up and congratulate you on your commitment to an important issue only to be told that the symbol had been unknowingly appropriated.

    Check out

    Posted by: Kenton | Nov 19, 2008 3:39:52 PM

  3. I understand the wedding = white reference, but after all the criticism the No on Prop 8 folks got for being a bunch of entitled white folks, this seems to a really bad idea.

    Posted by: Paul Brown | Nov 19, 2008 3:48:32 PM

  4. Frank Voci,

    Yeah, my first reaction was an over-reaction, but I've explained why, and that there will be others with my initial reaction.

    I now know what you intend for it to mean.
    When I see someone wearing the knotted white ribbon I'll know what it symbolizes, and I'll explain it to anyone else who asks.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 19, 2008 4:46:35 PM

  5. ... there's still a lot of dialogue that needs to take place... but I believe that's what these knots can assist with... creating dialogue... it does when I wear it... I said earlier... choose the color you want... but make the KNOT our symbol... make hundreds... BUT make knots with the chevron cut at the end of the ribbon (see photo) that way they all look the same... LOL... but in different colors... white, blue, rainbow YOU CHOOSE... just make the KNOT... wear it, love it, reveal it... to everyone!!!

    Posted by: D | Nov 19, 2008 5:04:47 PM

  6. "White ribbon symbolizes weddings, not oppression of white gay men--ok, I accept that."

    Symbols, by definition, mean different things to different people. The people claiming offense at the whiteness of the white knot are, therefore, not at all incorrect (even though their histrionics are tiresome). Try to see their point of view, though it may seem unreasonable to you.

    The debate reminds me of the Confederate Flag Controversy. People just can't understand that flag, which is a symbol by definition, means different things to different people, by definition of what a symbol is.

    In other words, there are no winners here. Just a lot of people making a lot of noise.

    When I first saw the White Knot idea on Towel Road this morning, I spent at least thirty seconds frozen in ambivalence: Is it lame because the ribbon is an overused symbol, it's been done (and re-done and re-done), it's tired and unoriginal, it's more eighties than Members Only jackets, it's cliched beyond redemption, or because it's so fucking boring?

    So hard to pick just one.

    Hey, wanna know how my husband and I symbolize our marriage? BY WEARING OUR WEDDING RINGS.

    Posted by: Tim in SF | Nov 19, 2008 5:41:56 PM

  7. I just love gay people..

    a cute little ribbon and we even cut triangles out of the ends to cut down on fraying! So us...

    We worry about things like marriage fraying and most don't. We are such creative optimists when that seems so out of sight right now.

    Go guys!

    Posted by: David B. | Nov 19, 2008 6:08:19 PM

  8. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, and know that it was done in a good spirit, but I'm sorry...that looks like a bow on a little girl's Sunday school dress. I'll show my support for gay marriage by getting married to my partner this summer in Massachusetts and not hiding it when we get back to Kentucky.

    Posted by: Christopher, Louisville, KY | Nov 19, 2008 8:21:11 PM

  9. I remember growing up and watching all the hollywood stars at the Oscars with their red ribbon pins. My conservative family mocked them then and will probably do the same once the white knots show up this year. I think its a way for people to feel "activist-y" without really trying. And for some people, that's better than nothing. The ribbon/bracelet concepts are tired and cliched, but they do still help with brand identity and cohesion within the movement. Kinda like HRC stickers on cars. Only gay people really even know what they mean since most straights don't even know what the HRC acronym spells, let alone what they stand for. But it does make me more likely to let you cut in front of me in traffic...

    Posted by: Mikey | Nov 19, 2008 10:22:53 PM

  10. When I saw it the first thing I thought of was a cum shot. Why this color instead of the rainbow? Because it is white? Do weddings across the world and in all cultures use white in their weddings?

    Posted by: Jason Young | Nov 20, 2008 7:12:42 AM

  11. you know the more we argue with each other, the less progress we will make. instead of fighting among ourselves, lets band together. together we are stronger, and when we are stronger, the better our chances will be of getting FULL equality.

    Posted by: jayjay | Nov 20, 2008 8:43:41 PM

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