With the Winter Olympics just a few months away, criticism of Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws is reaching fever pitch. Initiated under the guise of "protecting children," the country's legislation prohibits displays of non-heterosexual relationships, including instances of pro-gay speech.
To protest those laws, controversial LGBT clothing and accessory company FCKH8 recently launched a new campaign. It promises to send 10,000 pro-gay children's coloring books to Mother Russia once the company's Tumblr announcement reaches 100,000 reblogs.
In a press release, FCKH8 founder Luke Montgomery stated:
"Russia has made it a crime for any pro-gay words to be spoken and that law is about to be broken. The message of this coloring book is to let kids in Russia know that being gay is normal. Beating and imprisoning people just for being out of the closet, or arresting them for simply saying that it’s OK if someone in their family is gay, is an attack on human rights and a trashing of the Olympic spirit. We’re going to be breaking this homophobic law and there’s nothing the government can do to stop it."
Using consumer data, FCKH8 says it's acquired the addresses of 10,000 Russian homes that have children living in them. A Russian-language version of Misha & His Moms Go to the Olympics will be sent to each of those homes, wrapped in plain brown paper.
But since posting the announcement online, the clothing company's campaign has drawn heavy criticism, some of it from its Tumblr followers.
Dissenters say that FCKH8 is essentially endangering the lives of those who will receive its pro-gay material.
Tumblr commenter thequeensharp wrote:
Sending 10,000 pro-equality colouring books to Russian families that do not want to take part of Putin’s Anti-Gay law and understand the risks in being pro-gay, that is not doing anything. You are going to send thousands of people to jail, or a large fine for something they did not want, did not order, did not wish to take part in.
Being gay in Russia is not illegal, but the "propaganda of non-traditional relationships to minors" is a punishable offense—carrying with it fines ranging from U.S. $1,500 to $30,000. A non-traditional relationship is loosely defined as any that cannot result in the production of offspring.
None of this bodes well for families that receive pro-gay coloring books in the mail, even if they're unsolicited. Reports of anti-gay hate crimes in the country have increasingly made headlines since the propaganda laws were passed, and even those who are merely suspected of being gay have become targets.
There's also the question of what the campaign will mean for the LGBT activists in Russia working to overturn its anti-gay legislation. As Tumblr commenter yanderemeganekko wrote in his response to FCKH8's plan:
"Despite saying that the packages will be disguised, if they send 10,000 books, some of them are bound to be discovered by authorities, and that will mean trouble. If nothing more, they will at least be a reason for the government to tighten mailing laws or take further action against pro-gay activists....
THIS IS A METHOD FOR SPREADING AWARENESS IN THE WEST. THIS WILL JUST GET PEOPLE IN TROUBLE."