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glitter-bomb also glitterbomb

verb [transitive]

to protest about something by throwing glitter (= very small shiny pieces of metal or plastic) over a person at a public event

glitterbomb

noun [countable]

glitter-bomber also glitterbomber, glitter bomber

noun [countable]

'Gay rights protesters have taken to glitter-bombing Republican candidates in protest against their views on homosexuality.'

Telegraph 10th February 2012

'I'm sure there are other church bodies or legal scholars who disagree. Where are their voices? Or do all sides now have to throw a glitterbomb to get noticed?'

GetReligion 16th February 2012

'He spoke to the glitterbomber from the stage, "introducing" the person to the crowd: "Hi there. How are you? Good to see you. There we go."'

Portland Mercury 1st February 2012

The word glitter, that substance consisting of shiny little pieces of plastic or metal, has conventionally evoked images of sparkly decoration, or perhaps the craft activities of young children as they glue copious amounts of it to homemade Christmas cards. However in recent months the word is cropping up in a rather different context, as it seems that some people have found a completely new use for the stuff. Glitter has recently made the quantum leap from decorative embellishment to political activism in a new activity known as glitter-bombing.

The harmless nature of glitter-bombing and its light-hearted associations with celebration and marriage are used to ironic effect, making it a powerful tool for communicating a serious
message

The new verb glitter-bomb refers to the action of throwing glitter over a person, generally a politician, in order to protest about something, usually as a reaction against something the person has said or an issue with which they are connected. The verb works transitively and often occurs in the passive form as in e.g. X was/got glitter-bombed. A related noun glitterbomb refers to the fistful of glitter itself, and the term glitter-bomber is a description of someone who chooses to make their protest in this way.

The practice of glitter-bombing is almost always associated with gay rights activists, and the expression has gained currency in the US in recent weeks in connection with glitter-throwing episodes targeting Republican politicians and other public figures who oppose same sex marriage. A notable group of such activists has been correspondingly dubbed the 'Glitterati', a play on the expression coined in the 1950's to refer to the fashionable rich and famous.

The harmless nature of glitter-bombing and its light-hearted associations with celebration and marriage (i.e. glitter as an alternative to confetti) are used to ironic effect, making it a powerful tool for communicating a serious message (not least because of the tenacity of the glitter, which continues to sparkle on the hair and clothes of targeted politicians for some time after they've attempted to brush it away!) However some politicians, such as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have unwittingly turned this effect on its head by mistakenly thinking that the glitter was a welcoming, celebratory gesture, and responding enthusiastically.

Background – glitter-bomb

The practice of glitter-bombing emerged in the US during 2011, gaining momentum with the ongoing campaigns of presidential election candidates. So far, the activity doesn't appear to have crossed the Atlantic, but it's probably only a matter of time before it does.

Why glitter? Possibly because it conjures up images of camp or effeminate ways of dressing and has an ostensible association with gay stereotypes. Also, unlike certain items used in similar acts of protest, glitter has the advantage of being completely harmless and does not cause any lasting damage to clothes, etc. The practices of egging and shoeing (where eggs and shoes are thrown at people, buildings or cars) are more likely to cause injury or permanent damage, and are therefore often considered criminal offences, i.e. acts of assault or vandalism.

It could be argued that glitter bombing falls into a category of public protest sometimes described as tactical frivolity, a term used since the 1990s to refer to the use of humour in opposing perceived political injustices.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 27th February 2012.

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