Buyer's Remorse

Boycotting for Civil Rights

by Michael Abernethy

16 March 2011

Image found on Addictive  

The Double-Edged Credit Card

In Spain, a demand by a gay rights group that the country lead the European Union in a boycott of Jamaica didn’t achieve its goal. Still, LGBT individuals in Europe and elsewhere are free to boycott the tropical vacation spot in protest of its rampant homophobia. In New Zealand, gay activists called for a boycott of Moa Beer, after the parent company released t-shirts implying that lite beers were only for “B(Q)eers”. A recent call for a boycott of Heinz in the UK didn’t affect the company’s sales; gay rights groups were upset after the ketchup maker gave in to pressure and pulled an ad featuring a kiss between two gay dads.  With half a million views on YouTube, the ad has still reached a substantial audience.

In addition to not always being successful, boycotts invite another problem. For every boycott the LGBT community sponsors, anti-gay organizations are calling for boycotts of gay friendly companies. McDonalds, Ford, and Home Depot are just a few of the companies that have been targeted. This past February, in a rare act of eating itself, some conservatives in the United States boycotted their own convention, the Conservative Political Action Conference, which should have been their victory party after last year’s election. They were upset that a gay group was one of many co-sponsors of the event. Better to not get the message out at all than have to share the stage with “those people”. 

So, what’s a company to do? Support the gay community, and anti-gay organizations boycott. Withdraw your support, and the LGBT community and its sympathizers boycott. This begs the question, What good are these boycotts doing except confusing everyone regarding with whom they can and can’t shop and when? That isn’t to suggest that boycotts can’t be successful, particularly when a previously friendly organization, such as Target, which got a score of 85 from the HRC, seems to turn its back on the GLBT community.

Instead of chasing windmills, the more effective strategy is to make everyday buying about supporting LGBT friendly businesses and companies. Many countries have lists of LGBT friendly corporations, usually compiled by a gay rights group, such as the HRC in the States. For local merchants, consulting LGBT phone books and directories, which are available online, provides direction as to where to spend your money, as does word of mouth. Even if one does the majority of one’s shopping online, it’s easy to investigate a company’s or website’s policies and practices, often in the site’s “About Us” section. 

Redirecting all of our spending in the direction of those who have our backs will make an impact. Regardless of conflicting studies concerning the amount of discretionary spending of gay and lesbian households versus straight households, the bottom line is that we spend a lot of dough.  Big, fat wads of cash. According to a study conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts, spending by the LGBT community in the US during 2010 amounted to $743 billion. That was up from $732 billion the previous year, but not as high as originally projected, due in large part to concerns about the economy. Japan Times reports that Japanese marketer Pageanta Co. estimated spending by the LGBT community in that country at 6.6 trillion yen, the same amount the whole country spends on alcohol. According to London Gay Man, LGBT people spent 70 billion pounds in the UK. In India, the “pink rubee” is gaining in power, as reported for the BBC India by Howard Johnson:

Being aware of the businesses that respect their LGBT employees and customers is a large step toward spending wisely. Whether its chicken fried steak, towels, tennis shoes, or insurance, you can get pretty equivalent deals in more than one place. Don’t just support LGBT businesses; let them know that is why you have given them your patronage. Similarly, let companies that you drop know that it is their discriminatory practices that have led you to shop elsewhere. 

Like my neighbor, though, too many LGBT individuals will claim they don’t care about that political stuff, never realizing that they are helping to fund the efforts of those who will keep LGBT persons from getting what they do want, like equality in marital benefits, job security, and safety. My neighbor and her BFF both work at one of Louisville’s best restaurants, L & N Bistro, a place that welcomes everyone (try the pork chop—to die for!). Should they both find themselves unemployed, neither would have much of a chance of getting on at their favorite Cracker Barrel. Perhaps one day I’ll take her out to Cottage Inn to show her she can still get chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, and meatloaf that is damn good and inexpensive. Maybe, if she’s lucky, the waitress will whack her in the head with a menu. It’s a sign of love.

Cheers, Queers To Tommy Kirk, who will turn 70 this year. Kirk was a teen star in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with Disney Studios, until he admitted to Disney executives that he was gay. Kirk starred in such hits as The Shaggy Dog, The Absent Minded Professor, and Swiss Family Robinson. After his admission, he was dropped by Disney, and his career fizzled. Kirk has worked sporadically since then, with his last credit being The Education of a Vampire in 2001. At a time when it was no secret that being out in Hollywood would most likely be career suicide, Kirk remained honest about who he was.

Music Tip for the Month Check out Sara Hickman’s haunting rendition of Marvin Etzioni’s lesbian love song “Juliet and Juliet” on Sara’s excellent album Absence of Blame. And I don’t know her, so she didn’t ask for the plug.

Here’s Mud in Your Eye To Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, who tweeted a response to gay Glee creator Ryan Murphy, telling him to “see a therapist, get a manicure, buy a new bra.” Followill quickly apologized, saying that he wasn’t homophobic or misogynistic. I’m sure that he was sincere in his apology, but a tip for the future, Nathan, If you don’t want to have to apologize for sounding like a homophobe, don’t sound like homophobe.

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