Because of the nature of my work I pay a lot of attention to branding, and while walking the exhibit floor at CPAC my eye was caught by a branding choice so odd that I have to comment on it.
In way of background, here is the traditional male symbol:
Here is the traditional female symbol:
Here is the usual symbol for traditional heterosexual marriage:
Here is the symbol for a male homosexual marriage:
Here is the symbol for a lesbian marriage:
This symbol would logically represent someone who is transgendered:
All makes sense so far, right? The conventions of this system are consistent and easy to understand.
Here is the symbol I encountered at CPAC on the booth of the National Organization for Marriage, a group which opposes any kind of same-sex marriage:
Based on the graphic conventions shown in the first examples, looking at the symbol being used by the National Organization for Marriage, I can only assume that they are advocating some sort of marriage between androgynous beings completely lacking in sexual identity – perhaps very regularly shaped amoebae or some other single celled organism, or perhaps they are proposing marriage without sex or gender roles, though that seems just as unlikely.
I assume they were trying to send some sort of message with their choice of symbols – maybe wedding rings or abstinence or something – but the only read I get off of it is marriage between beings whose genital areas are as smooth and featureless as circles – perhaps Barbie and Ken. It certainly suggests a driving fear of sexuality.
In addition, the decision to change the colors from the traditional pink and blue to red and blue has political connotations. They may have meant to show their patriotism, but to me it suggests a sexless marriage between Republican and Democrat androids – perhaps James Carville and Mary Matalin.
If they weren’t trying to promote androgyny, my best guess as to their reasoning is that they looked at the male symbol and its abstract resemblance to a penis and decided it was obscene – perhaps because their repressed and puritanical staff found it arousing. Or maybe they were offended by the resemblance of the female symbol to the traditional bishop’s orb and didn’t want to offend their evangelical members by alluding to the Whore of Babylon.
I can only imagine the dithering and mentally wearisome process which went into making this vital branding decision. As is often the case with the very worst decisions, I bet that an awful lot of effort went into it. As far as I’m concerned it was well worth it, because it reveals much more about their mindset than they ever intended, and whenever CPAC was getting me down I could stop by their booth for a cheery snicker.