Target. Wal-Mart. Chick-fil-A. Barilla. Hobby Lobby. Coca-Cola.
All of these companies have been boycotted by the LGBT community in the recent past. Some, because of a homophobic stance or policy. Some, because a CEO can’t keep his personal views to himself and that ignorance seeps into the pores of these organizations and infects them with hate. But boycotting these companies didn’t work- most domestic organizations actually saw a *rise* in stock prices during the boycotts. Why? Well, the simple reason is any publicity is good publicity. But its more complicated than that. And as a community, we have to rise above. Get our shit together. And realize this isn’t the Boston Tea Party.
Boycotts are a huge part of Olympic History. In 1980, the U.S. joined dozens of other countries inboycotting the Moscow Olympics. Four years later, the U.S.S.R. returned the favor and boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. Who suffers? Well, for one… the athletes, who make their living on Olympic sponsorships and deals with other sponsors that expect exposure and maybe a medal or six. But I think we lose even more… we lose a chance to discuss these issues. Let’s break it down:
Remember *before* the Superbowl when the LGBT community was boycotting Coke? It was because they appeared unsupportive of the LGBT human rights violations in Russia. You probably don’t remember because it was two weeks ago, and all Coke had to do was put a couple of gay dads rollerskating in a Superbowl commercial and all was forgiven. But it happened. Coca-Cola pulls in over 50 billion annually in revenue. GROSS. You know what’s even crazier? More than 60% of its revenue comes from overseas (not in the U.S.).
For a boycott of Coke to be successful in the U.S., we would have to put a dent in almost $20 bil in revenue… which isn’t even half of their gross revenue stream… so generally, they won’t give a fuck. If you don’t hit a company in its revenue stream, a boycott is pointless. Besides, I tried to make it three days without a Coke product… it was nearly impossible. I almost died from lack of Dasani (they put something in that water. I swear.) Burn all the vending machines and keep a lesbian from her Diet Dr. Pepper at 3pm? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.
Chick-fil-A is even worse. In 2012, their earnings went UP 14% compared to 2011. 2012 was the year their douche of a boss donated a boatload to anti-gay groups. THEY EARNED MORE, GUYS. Why? Because sometimes, us gays forget we are in a bubble. Seriously. Most of the time, we surround ourselves with like-minded people on social media as well as real life. Why wouldn’t we? It’s easier and less painful. It’s why you de-friend about three dozen people every time there’s a presidential election. There are a LOT of ignorant, homophobic people out there, not just in Russia, and they ran to Chick-fil-A with stomach empty and velcro wallets full. Shudder. Velcro.
I’m guilty of keeping myself in a bubble too. In my gay friendly neighborhood, with my liberal friends, at our liberal hang-outs. I was reminded of this last night, when I told jokes at a bar I rarely go to. There were 20 comics on the mic, and 19 of them weren’t homophobic. But one guy was so ignorant, hateful and homophobic, I had to walk outside and get some air. He couldn’t have been more than 22, and the things he was saying literally felt like they were punching me in the chest. But you know what? He got laughs.
I guess what I’m saying is… for a boycott to fucking work, it has to be real and worldwide. And the issues are too complex for a total fucking throwdown boycott. Coke for example: they had gay dads? That’s good. They don’t seem to support the LGBT community at the Olympics? That’s bad. Do they cancel each other out? In the LGBT community, to effect change, we will have to do more than “boycott” Russian vodka (and by boycott it, I mean drink it all in one night.)
So what’s the solution? How do we effect change. REAL change. I’ m not sure, but to me, the solution is communication. The whole Barilla fiasco led to LGBT issues entering the news, if even for a few days, and that is a benefit of boycotts. Maybe a young, closeted kid will see these issues being discussed, and not be as afraid to talk to a parent or counselor. Maybe he won’t resort to violence, or worse, take his own life. These discussions can also happen without a boycott.
This past Christmas, my girlfriend and I visited my sister in Virginia. A commercial came on for the Salvation Army, and someone made a comment about what a great organization they are and how they used to volunteer there as a child. It took EVERYTHING in my egg nog ridden body to not blurt out, “The Salvation Army hates gay people.” I didn’t say that… it’s Christmas, guys. But that didn’t prevent me from emailing that person the next week with a link about the Salvation Army that said, “Good to see you! Happy New Year. I know you said you like them, but I thought you might be interested in some of the policies the Salvation Army holds.” Maybe she clicked on the link, maybe she didn’t. (She did, because we had a lovely discussion about it.) But the LAST thing I want is an already conservative person who doesn’t vote for gay rights to leave a hang-out with me and have me push her AWAY from support of our cause. I’m a radical pansexual in her second year of law school, guys. I can scare people. But scaring people does not open doors. Or change minds.
The opening ceremonies are tonight, and I hope you tune in. The Olympics is one of those events that takes everyone back… for me, it’s sitting on the couch with my Dad as he laughs at the color commentary. And how my Mom would always say, “How do they do that?” about every athlete in every event. Tune in not just to the Olympics, but also tune in to the inevitable discussions that will arise as a result of these troublesome and scandalous games. (Plus, Bob Costas has already said “pussy” twice. It’s only going to get better.) Remember, it’s worth the sometimes awkward discussions, its worth a few “heated” debates. Like I always say… crack open a Pepsi and enjoy.