Answering Some Questions About the Vote for a New Polyamory Flag
With just a few days left before voting closes, we wanted to take a moment to share some questions asked by Alan (from Polyamory in the Media) and answered by our very own Kristian. Included are some quotes from two of our committee members, so be sure to have a read!
Alan’s questions are in bold, with Kristian’s responses in standard text.
Why did only new, unknown flags make it to the finals, when several are currently in use and perhaps widely liked?
We were lucky to receive dozens of submissions and also to have found through our research, more dozens of existing designs. It felt important to give an opportunity to beautifully made, thoughtful flags that would otherwise have never been noticed. That said, several existing or well-known flags were involved in the multi-tiered selection process but eliminated for 1) copyright issues (they didn't belong to the public domain), or 2) lack of support from either our advisors and/or the committee (for example, the green-and-blue-banded design by Molly Makes Things made it through the advisory round and into the committee review, but it came out of their initial review among the least preferred options. One committee member motioned for a second decision on that particular design, in case it had been passed over for its colors instead of its symbolism, but it turned out that the symbolism was more of the issue. Which leads us to your next question:
Why do none have the infinity heart, our only well-known symbol?
There are a few reasons for this—we've been critical of the infinity heart in the past. Design-wise, its interlocking curves create messy and unwieldy negative space, especially when placed atop a striped background where the division between the bands of color dissects the symbol at odd intervals, creating a rather erratic image. Additionally, we've received feedback from artists, makers, and crafters who've found adding a symbol, especially a complex symbol like the infinity heart, makes it more challenging to reproduce images of designs that employ them. The harder the thing is to reproduce, the less it will be reproduced. That's the opposite of what we're looking for when it comes to community pride flags.
In terms of its symbolism, there were diverse opinions among the committee, but a couple of the members offered this on their decision not to include it:
"To me, the infinity heart calls upon old romantic stereotypes upholding love and relationships as an infinite force, leading to unrealistic expectations both from oneself and our partners. Love isn't infinite, our time, patience, and the amount of affection we can give is limited, and as a movement that's rethinking the way we relate to each other we have to be realistic, honest and responsible with our limits and the limits of our partners, because if we aren't well ourselves we won't be able to be there for the people we love." - Jacques Treviño
“I personally think the idea of infinity+heart only represents that love can be infinite (in many ways) and does not necessarily imply unrealistic expectations of time and emotional bandwidth/resources also being infinite.
However, I respect the process we arrived at not including it- the majority of this diverse committee had voted against it (5 vs 2) and so ideally we should stick with the committee's decision.” - Basit Manham
The committee also selected two designs which were created with space to accommodate additional symbols of the user's liking. Similar examples of this occurring out in the world are the flags of Poland and Peru, which in some cases appear with a crest and in some cases appear without a crest, but are at all times recognized as the flags of Poland and Peru, crest or not.
Regarding obscurity or confusion: we strongly disagree. The obscurity of the Pi flag is in part because Pi has many other (and stronger) cultural associations to the world at large, among them engineering or geometry. These designs, because they're new, don't have any associations at all. This is the case with any new flag, logo, symbol, icon intending to depict an abstract idea. For example, when it was first created, there was nothing inherently French about their blue, white, and red tricolor. Now, it is an iconic symbol of the country. The association came after the flag. We expect that will be the case here as well.
Finally, it was always the hope of this project to produce something new—to move away from existing symbolism on the basis that no existing flag had taken a solid hold in the community to this point. That's not to say we don't appreciate the value of the infinity heart for polyamorous people (in particular those in Europe, it would seem based on where that critism is largely coming from). The infinity heart may well continue to have stronger and stronger associations with polyamory among the world at large—but that doesn't mean it must exist on the flag. We encourage everyone to use the symbols and flags that feel comfortable and inspiring to them.
Why only four finalists?
From the beginning of this project, one of the primary drivers was the notion that polyamory has existed for far longer and is made up of far more people than the caucasian group in which it has in recent decades become more popular. It felt, therefore, principally important to prioritize voices of those with traditionally less decision-making power in the process of creating a new banner for our community.
That's why we wanted a committee of diverse representatives to narrow the field of options first before putting them to a community-wide vote. The majority of voters was likely going to be English-speaking because, despite doing our best to provide translations of our plan in a variety of languages and our efforts to reach as many varied segments of the global polyamorous community, the creators of PolyamProud are ourselves English-speaking. So, the majority of our content would be in English and accordingly capture a primarily English-speaking audience, whether or not that's actually reflective of the global demographics of polyamorous people.
We knew from the jump that a vote with 10 or more flags would split the decision too much—that we might end up with a flag that was the majority of people's 4th or 5th choice. So, we always planned for the vote to include "more than two and less than seven" designs. After the initial advisory round, the committee saw 10 designs, and chose among themselves to only include those they thought were the best four, rather than including designs they didn't believe strongly simply for the sake of variety for voters.
We considered using a bracket-style system and had a series of votes, but the demographics of those voters and number of votes would be inconsistent at each step. A single vote would maximize engagement and ensure a consistent voter base throughout. That's why we chose to hold only a single vote on a small group of designs which had been pre-selected by people whose voices were likely to have been drowned out by white polyamorous people in the vote.
Flags don't become beacons of a community overnight. That takes time, use, and persistence. We have been so proud of the engagement, excitement, and massive response from the community. With nearly 30,000 people having weighed in on these designs, we see this vote as a way to jump-start adoption of a new standard for the polyamorous community. We believe in the ability of each of these designs to become that beacon over the next decade.
Thanks, Alan, for asking such thoughtful questions. And thanks, Kristian, Jaques, and Basit, for taking the time to answer them! (Have you voted? Have your say while there's still time!)