A man wearing a mask of Russian President Vladimir Putin was spotted on top of the famous Wall Street Charging Bull sculpture on Monday. He was shirtless, and he wasn’t alone — the bull was also covered in several rainbow dildos.
A man named Jeff Jetton took credit for the prank, according to The Huffington Post. On Twitter, Jetton said on Tuesday, July 17 that the NYPD had “invited” him into their 1st precinct on Monday for a summons “for my work as Putin on the Wall Street Charging Bull.” He also made a joke that he saw the summons as “some kind of award” for his prank.
The Prank, Explained
Jetton told Inverse in an email that he got the idea for the prank from another protest he did at Deutsche Bank on Wall Street. “I happened to have a ten inch suction cup dildo in the briefcase I was using for that one and I stuck it on the bull for the tourists as I was walking by,” he explained.
“I had been considering a way to highlight the Kremlin’s increasing influence over American democracy and the bull is such an iconic representation of US institutions, especially those easily corrupted by power,” he went on.
Jetton also noted that when he dealt with the NYPD as a result of the prank, they “were professional and courteous and recognized my constitutional rights. My interaction with NYPD was nothing short of excellent.”
The Huffington Post reports that some people saw the prank as a commentary on Putin’s “control” over the United States. Jetton tells Inverse, “People can interpret it however they’d like. I’m not trying to tell them how to view it.” He said he chose dildos because they “are a stark contrast to the hard bronze sculpture,” and that he used about 100 of them.
Is It Problematic?
The stunt is just another in a line of recent jokes about how Trump and Putin are gay, and gay lovers on top of that, Them pointed out. Even The New York Times has gotten in on it, posting an Opinion piece on June 25 with a cartoon showing Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as lovers, and of Trump fantasizing about Russia’s leader.
But not everyone thinks Jetton’s prank or the jokes about Trump and Putin are funny. In fact, many see them as homophobic, and very problematic.
Who Are We Laughing At?
“I think it’s completely bizarre that so called progressives have not stopped tweeting this stuff when LGBTQ folks keep telling you it’s offensive,” Lexi Alexander tweeted Tuesday.
The logic behind the joke, and behind depicting Putin surrounded by a bunch of rainbow dildos, is that Russia prohibits “the promotion of homosexuality,” according to The New York Times, and the joke is that he, himself, is gay.
The problem is that LGBTQ individuals are essentially being used as the butt of a joke in order to advance it. By mocking Putin and Trump as being gay and secretly in love, people making these jokes are, in a way, mocking and villainizing LGBTQ people.
Sparking a Conversation
Imani Gandy, a Senior Legal Analyst at Rewire News, tweeted on Wednesday and called out the “gay jokes” people keep making about Putin and Trump as homophobic. “They’re really not funny,” she said. “Be better than that.”
To be fair, Jetton tells Inverse that, in regards to his prank being seen as homophobic, he “had no message associated with those particular dildos.” He tells Inverse:
I had a box of 100 dildos donated to me. I did not specify color, shape or size. Again I haven’t counted them but there were four different types. I had no say in the color but if anyone out there is interested in attaching meaning to a rainbow dildo that is their absolute prerogative.
That being said, if this brings about conversations around Human Rights and LGBTI Rights in both the US and other countries, I am okay with that. But again, I just received a box of random dicks. Could have been entirely green or sparkly silver for all I cared. I was just happy to get them without having to buy them.
The truth is, Jetton and random Twitter users aren’t the only ones to make these jokes that some see as homophobic. Other offenders include the likes of Bette Midler, Chelsea Handler, and Jimmy Kimmel, Them noted.
Intent Does Not Equal Impact
No matter who is making the jokes, if LGBTQ individuals don’t find them funny, and in fact think they are homophobic and hurtful, that’s something to take into account.
There is plenty to mock and critique about Trump and Putin’s relationship and their meeting in Helsinki on Monday, July 16. Making fun of LGBTQ individuals, or relationships, doesn’t need to be a part of the equation.
Ultimately, Jetton wants people to keep in mind that “this shit is not normal,” and he believes “everyone should be out there highlighting this clown show.” For Jetton, highlighting looked like this Wall Street bull prank. Hopefully next time, Trump and Putin will be the only butt of the joke.