What Does The Raised Fist Mean In 2017?
Once a sign of solidarity for the black civil rights movement, the raised fist, now used by everyone from Winona Ryder to Donald Trump, has come to mean everything and nothing at the same time.
If you blinked, you missed it: President-elect Donald Trump channeling the late Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton just minutes before his swearing-in ceremony. On Inauguration Day, Trump emerged from the Capitol Building, gave a thumbs-up, and then raised his right fist in the air. The incongruity of the fist was plain. Decades earlier, the raised fist was a signal of resistance associated with the Black Power movement. But during his campaign, on Christmas cards and onstage, Trump used the fist as an aggressive symbol of dominance, wielding it throughout his rallies after speeches. And yet the fist was also a focal point at Women’s Marches the next day, appearing on unofficial and sanctioned guides and graphics. One poster, Liza Donovan’s “Hear Our Voice,” depicted multihued female hands gripping a torch made of a black power fist, and another by Victoria Garcia, “Respeta,” echoed the classic feminist logo of a clenched fist inside the Venus symbol. The marchers were openly protesting Trump’s misogynistic behavior and political platform, but they had subtly altered his macho show of strength, too. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, the cast of the Netflix drama Stranger Things gathered onstage to celebrate a win for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.” Moved by the passionate anti-bullying message in castmate David Harbour’s speech, several of his co-stars raised their fists to punctuate his words. A clip of cast member Winona Ryder repeatedly raising hers in a comically mechanical way as she made a series of bewildered faces went viral. The raised fist appears to mean everything and nothing at the same time.
When a man as divisive as our country’s current president uses the raised fist as he punches down (at Muslims, Mexicans, women, disabled reporters, etc.) while others use it to express unity, we need to reassess its meaning. The raised fist, once a fixed image of solidarity and strength, has morphed into a nebulous anything. It’s not unlike that ubiquitous “Arthur” meme, easily conveying irritability, mild annoyance, or actual rage. The fist has become shorthand for indignation, whether sincere or ironic, playful or deadly serious.
Today the raised fist is as easily found on soapy primetime TV as on a smartphone keyboard. Beyoncé employed it in a music video, Super Bowl performance, and promotional photo last year. The TV show Empire used the symbol in its season opener. FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson re-created the moment from the infamous murder trial when a juror flashed the black power fist at Simpson in the courtroom. What’s palpable in those scenes is the slipperiness between sincerity and performance, and how both impulses can be evident in the same gesture.
They’re great examples of camp, that ultimate performative mode. Camp, a style and sensibility that emerged from queer culture, has a somewhat slippery definition, but is characterized by exaggeration, excess, affect, and reappropriation. In “Notes on ‘Camp,’” Susan Sontag’s landmark writing on the aesthetic, she measures camp “to the degree of artifice, of stylization.” Cultural theorist Andrew Ross, in an essay called “Uses of Camp,” claimed that “camp involves a rediscovery of history’s waste.” The raised fist is not waste in the conventional What Does The Raised Fist Mean In 2017 - BuzzFeed News: