The Rainbow Scare

Following the Second World War, there was a fear amongst the American population. Mainly, that fear was aimed at communism. This was called the Red Scare. During this time, people would be ostracized if there were any indications or rumors that they were a communist. People were driven from their homes and communities and were forced from their job. Intertwined with the Red Scare was the Lavender Scare. The Lavender Scare was a “far reaching” scare that focused mainly on homosexuality in men (Friedman). Similarly to the Red Scare, “thousands of suspected homosexuals were investigated, interrogated, and dismissed by government officials and private employers” (Friedman). The reason they were so closely intertwined was because of the generalized attributes shared by homosexual men and communists. Apparently, the two groups shared “moral corruption, psychological immaturity, and an ability to ‘pass’ undetected among ordinary Americans” (Friedman). Many people thought that in order to be a good American, one must not be gay or communist. Therefore, those who are gay or have a different political stance must be singled out and investigated. Because of this, politicians began using Lavender Scare to their advantage. 

During the Red and Lavender Scare, politicians began using this sort of weaponized homosexuality. All it took were claims from reporters, officials, and respected men to publicly accuse others as gay. Of course, back then that was a claim that could affect their political success, public support, and personal image. In the case of Joe McCarthy, one can notice how the weaponized accusation of being deemed homosexual can affect a political leader. Media coverage back in the 1950s was pretty similar to how it is covered today with the fact that media agencies covered gossip as news. Different journalists wrote about how McCarthy was actually gay. However, McCarthy decided not to sue the news agencies as it would draw more attention to the false accusations. Instead, he kept up his manly facade and attempted to prove to people that he indeed was not gay. Connecting this to communism, this sort of altercation is similar to ones seen during the Red Scare. People are accusatory and those accused have to disprove the claims. Looking at this situation through a modern lens makes it seem bonkers. The focus on masculinity and the “degeneracy” of being gay is so old fashioned. However, there are still many people who still hold the same beliefs. 

I believe that sexual innuendos are still used in today’s politics. However, it is quite different from how it was used during the Lavender Scare. We see a lot more sexual innuendos when it comes to elections and scandals. Something that comes to mind is the many sexual innuendos said by Former President Donald Trump. He was essentially the king of innuendos of all types. Tucker Carlson on Fox News pushes for masculinity. Other than that, I guess I do not see much use of sexual innuendos in politics as of late. Perhaps I should be more aware of what is being said and done

3 thoughts on “The Rainbow Scare

  1. I do agree with you that both the “Red scare” and the “Lavender scare” are similar in the reactions it got from the American people. The American people feared that communists or homosexuals would ruin the “American way of life.” I also agree with you that people in politics weaponized this scare to defeat their opponents, which caused many great politicians to be removed from office. Unfortunately, our former president would use these sexual innuendos to attack his opponents and I believe that it’s not right. I believe that there is a new wave of Sexuals innuendos being used in politics today that could get the same reactions that were happening during the times of the “Lavender Scare.”


  2. Everything you said I mostly agreed with. I disagree with the statement that the media back in the 50s is a lot like it is now. Back then media was confined to literally the media. Rumors could not be spread anywhere but by radio, TV, and newspaper. Whereas today we have social media, which allows regular citizens to create their own media. Nowadays you do not need to be part of a news company or newspaper to create propaganda and gossip about the world. You could be any regular person sitting behind a computer screen. As long as you are popular, you can get your word to the public eye.


  3. McCarthy’s storyline of being this womanizer and super masculine to being accused of being gay. It goes to show how important image is in politics. I think it’s also important to analyze how we view image and how that affects our politics. It is interesting to think about how these accusations affected people in that time and future people. I also agreed that sexual innuendos are still in politics today. The example I also used was Donald Trump, as he used the most exuberant amount of innuendos. I think it’s interesting how excepted his comments were by the right side.


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