By now, all that can be said about Chick-Fil-A, its homophobic remarks, the few American mayor’s vows to “ban” them, and all that free speech/government interference jazz has been said. It’s done people. We can all move on now.
…Except I’m a journalist so it’s now my job to tell you WHAT IT ALL MEANS.
Of course you’re probably all smart (and attractive) enough to formulate your own opinions. That said, the Chick-Fil-A debacle (which I shall herein out refer to as “Chickengate”) still raises some questions on homophobia in the world of mass marketing.
Two weeks ago I wrote an editorial for NEXT Magazine on the controversy sounding Nabisco/Kraft’s support for LGBT equality. In an interesting turn of events last week, a controversy of equal weight and similarity captivated America. Only this time, the shoe was on the other foot—sandwich as it were. When it comes down to big business, Chickengate is problematic, not just for the homophobic sentiment that started it but because with COO Dan Cathy’s response, he makes it seem that the entire corporation of Chick-Fil-A is against the LGBT community. This isn’t just bad press, it’s bad business. And compared to the Oreo scandal, what we’re seeing here is the other side of the coin. What happens when corporations themselves are revealed to be homophobic?
The answer is, the homophobes are even more vulnerable.
Lest we forget that last year it was Target everyone was up in arms about, after it was found out that their money was going towards supporting anti-gay politician Tom Emmer. Target’s official stance was that they were only supporting Emmer because of his business platform. Recently, in what is likely a symbolic attempt at an apology, Target began selling greeting cards catering to an LGBT audience. It’s still all about money and marketing, but on the other hand, Target heeded to outcry. Whether or not the powers that be that control la Targé are homophobes, they at least had the business mind to change their tune and try to make amends with the public.
Yet Chick-Fil-A remains undaunted in their hate, and really, how can you be surprised? The corporation has always been rife with the stench of conservative fundamentalism. Chick-Fil-A has always proclaimed itself to be a Christian company: specifically fundamentalist Christian (we’ll leave those nice Episcopalians out of this). They have also loudly proclaimed themselves an anti-gay marriage company before, donating to various Prop 8-y causes. Though as a journalist I cannot, in good conscious, cite Wikipedia as a source, the Chick-Fil-A entry provides a laundry list of statements accusing the chicken sandwich franchise of misconduct. Among its homophobic crimes, the corporation has discriminated against Muslim employees as well.
With the Oreo debacle, Facebook stood as the rallying platform for the people, with supporters and detractors alike voicing their opinion. It was almost democratic in how the protest unfolded, but in the end it was decided that the “winner,” as it were, was Kraft/Nabisco and its supporters. People: 1, Homophobes: 0.
And now look at all the bad press and publicity the Chicken sandwich franchise has received. More than any angry city official declaring a symbolic ban, bad press is often enough to deal a hard blow (tee-hee) to a corporation. The people hold the money; the people have the power. Indeed, the reaction to Chick-Fil-A’s gaffe seems even more fervent and politicized than the reaction to the anti-Oreo controversy. This is because we can put a face on evil. This isn’t a bunch of disgruntled, pearl-clutching mothers, but a corporation with power over people’s lives. Over people’s dollars. It’s a greater threat to society, and so people are reacting much strongly than before.
In-N-Out burger, for example, is another fast-food chain with a strong religious image. Any I.N.O. customer may find printed Bible passages (the title of the passage alone and not the entire verse) discretely hidden in the folds of bag’s and below soda cups. To be fair, these passages bear no ill will against anyone and are largely positive. The burger chain has also not come under any fire for discrimination or anti-gay support. If owners of the chain harbor any anti-LGBT sentiment, they would be wise to keep that to themselves in the wake of this recent controversy. Til then, time will tell.
A question of greater importance could be whether or not religion has any place in our food. Certainly a food packaging signifier such as Hallal and Kosher should remain in place because they are vital to certain people’s dietary restrictions. These affect people’s personal choices and needs, and in some cases, their health. And soup-kitchens run by the mosques, churches, and synagogues of America do serve a public good. But fast food, which falls under the power of mass marketing, has no right to religious authority. Religion is powerful. So too is our marketing and commercial industry. These two forces are inherently at odds with each other in terms of morality, and therefore should never work in tandem. Of course, they often do, and in despicable ways. Corporations still support discriminatory politicians and lobbies. And franchises such as Chick-Fil-A still openly discriminate on gay people.
So what do we do? How can we fight an enemy that is so delicious? Delicious, and evil? As always I say: queer, inform thyself! The HRC (and I know we all have different opinions about the HRC) has a very comprehensive “Buyer’s Guide” for LGBT supportive and LGBT-harming companies. http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/index.php#.UBbRgLT2baw. Again, knowing where to allocate your dollars does a lot more damage than staging a protest.
That said, raising awareness is still vital. Facebook arguments are really silly, hey, they do catch people’s attention.
Maxwell Felix is a recent graduate of an unnamed, hippie liberal arts school in the North East where he received a B.A. in Mass Media / Journalism with a special interest in social-justice politics and gender/sexuality studies. He has has written for several young LGBT publications such as OUTinCHI. His hobbies include reading, video games, and being a public embarrassment. He is currently in the process of relocating closer to New York City. In addition to writing on LGBT issues and social politics, Felix maintains an astrology blog.