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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies Turn Us Lesbian (and Other Weird Gay Food Boycotts)

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

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You may remember the Great Gay Cookie Debacle of 2012, when Oreo posted an image of a rainbow cookie on its Facebook page in honor of Pride and was met with a barrage of anti-gay sentiments (and over 22,000 comments), in addition to threats of a biscuit boycott and, no doubt, remarks about baby Jesus weeping. In case you were worried, homoreos doesn't seem to have suffered much of a loss -- its Facebook page now boasts more than 34 million fans.

Even though that "gay agenda" may have crumbled, a right-wing pastor and radio host has new cookie concerns, and the rationale behind them is just as thin (minted).

"Please, I beg of you, stop buying Girl Scout cookies," Kevin Swanson said during his recent radio broadcast. "I don't want to support lesbianism, I don't want to support Planned Parenthood and I don't want to support abortion, and if that be the case I'm not buying Girl Scout cookies." Never mind that The Girl Scouts is a secular organization devoted to, if memory serves, making lanyards, not lesbians.

Shortly before Swanon's pleas came the extra-protein pasta controversy, when Barilla's chairman, Guido Barilla, came out against gay adoption and featuring gay people in his ads.

And let us not forget the deep-fried chicken controversy, when Chick-Fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, admitted his fast-food chain operated on biblical values and openly opposed same-sex marriage. Or what about the Washington state staffer in Mike Hewitt's office, who was co-sponsoring a bill that would allow businesses to deny people services based on religious differences. When asked by the media where rural gays were supposed to get food, the staffer replied: "Gay people can just grow their own food." Before that, activists twice boycotted Florida orange juice for their critical views on homosexuality. Coors and Cracker Barrel also faced heat when they refused to get out of the kitchen (of equality!).

There are dozens of examples like these on both sides of the gay aisle, (Pepsi, Starbucks, Cheerio's, and Betty Crocker have all had attempted boycotts thrown their way for supporting gay rights) fueling heated debates and ire-filled campaigns from gay supporters and NOMers alike (We find the National Organization for Marriage's foodie acronym more than a little ironic). Where does all this food-related vitriol come from? Historically, mainstream companies have tended to stay out of the social issues limelight, lest they alienate potential customers. But that's clearly not the case with LGBT issues, as hundreds of Silicon Valley tech companies proved (among many others) during last year's DOMA and Prop 8 hearings. 

It's possible that food boycotts appeal to us because taking a stance for or against a food product requires little work. It's far easier to not buy a cheap cake mix than it is to pen a letter to your local lawmaker or donate money to a cause or campaign you support. For instance, we haven't eaten at a Chick-Fil-A since college, so continuing to not eat there has proved remarkably easy. And in these trying times, where participating in democracy can feel pointless and frustrating, the power of consumerism is an immediate and viable action. It's also a way to further build brand loyalty (or enmity, as the case may be). We can feel good about purchasing that pumpkin spice latte because it aligns with our beliefs and makes us feel like we've committed a political act. Powerful and delicious is a tough act to undo. The food-protest link may also invoke Big Feelings because the food-emotion connection is high. The phrase "eating our feelings" exists for a reason. 

Whatever the root causes may be, we still find it somewhat odd that food is so high up on the  boycott food-chain (and liquor now, as the Stoli protests have proved). This isn't to suggest that boycotts aren't necessary, or that they don't change the hearts and minds of people as well as corporate policy and laws. Indeed, boycotts are a quintessentially American rebellion that started with the Stamp Act in 1765.

We suppose we'll have to wait and see what food stuff will be preposterously targeted next as evidence of furthering the "gay agenda." Until then, we'll just keep eating out, as usual.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley


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