“2 Cute 2 B Arrested” blazed across the cotton candy – colored sweatshirts of the members of the group Pink Bloque when thousands of people gathered March 20 in downtown Chicago to protest the one-year anniversary of the war on Iraq. Pink Bloque joined the crowd in full fuchsia ensemble, dancing to the beat of Top 40 hit “Hey Ya” by Outkast.
In the wake of 9⁄11, a group of Chicago-based friends formed the activist dance troupe to give the look of protests an extreme makeover. They use pink clothing and pop songs to spark political conversation and to challenge the stereotype of protesters as bandana-clad anarchists or peace sign – waving hippies. Since 2002 this group of radical feminists has coordinated actions to educate people on issues ranging from date rape to the USA PATRIOT Act.
“American pop culture is part of the ambiance of our lives,” says Pink Bloque member Dara Greenwald. “Sometimes we joke around that more people can pick out J‑Lo in a lineup than Dick Cheney.”
Pink Bloque draws on public fascination with pop culture to attract people who might otherwise be intimidated by protesters and to open them up to political dialogue. Pink Bloque uses popular music in an effort to associate seemingly vapid songs with messages of social justice: Donna Summer’s disco hit “She Works Hard for the Money” was the soundtrack for a May Day demonstration highlighting gender wage inequity and Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” [sic] was used to signify the pressure on immigrants after 9⁄11.
Contextualization is integral to Pink Bloque’s approach. They addressed threats to civil liberties and the USA PATRIOT Act at the Taste of Chicago festival on the Fourth of July. They danced outside popular bars in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago and showered the patrons with fliers about date rape. “By showing up in spaces where we’re not expected, not technically sanctioned to be … we turn public space back into a space for dialogue, not just for shopping,” says Pink Bloque member Kate Dougherty.
Humor and fun are part of Pink Bloque’s strategy to attract members and to sustain a sense of community within the collective. The lighthearted approach also deescalates tension at protests.
Pink Bloque member Jane Ball says that police at rallies often smile and laugh at their antics. “I think it really brings their level down,” Ball says. “They’re not as tense [because] they know we’re not going to try and hurt them or pelt them with anything.”
The group has taken its act on the road, hosting workshops in several cities on the East Coast last summer during their “Unjustified” tour. Pink-clad workshop participants learned about Pink Bloque philosophy, tactics and the “unifying force of the radical booty shake.”
Pink Bloque members see themselves as part of a tradition of creative resistance that includes the pageantry of the Suffragettes, Bread and Puppet Theater and ACT UP’s AIDS awareness activism that parodied corporate advertising. They locate their feminism within a complex progressive movement. “All oppressions are intertwined. You can’t talk about gender oppression without talking about racial oppression, without talking about class oppression. All those things are so wrapped up in one another that teasing out what’s what is impossible,” Dougherty says.
Pink Bloque has several events planned this year. Their next action will be to storm the capital — in pink, of course — April 25 during the March for Women’s Lives in Washington.
Greenwald puts it this way: “We are committed to challenging the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal empire one street dance at a time.”
For more information on Pink Bloque, go to www.pinkbloque.org.