LGBTQ community comes to a boil over comments made by Barilla

Staff Writer

At the end of last month, Guido Barilla, CEO of the Barilla pasta company, sparked controversy when he said that his company would never make commercials featuring same-sex couples because they do not reflect Barilla’s view of a traditional family. He than added that “if gays don’t like, they can always eat another pasta brand.” Well that is exactly what members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have started to do.

Since Barilla made his homophobic remarks, people in Italy and the U.S, where Barilla is a top selling pasta brand, have started a movement to boycott Barilla. In the face of such intense backlash, Barilla has apologized to the consumers multiple times but he always managed to make matters worse.

In one apology he said that his intentions were not meant to offend anyone, he was simply trying to “highlight the central role of the woman in the family.” That is reasonable because everybody knows that a woman’s “central role” is in the kitchen making pasta for her heterosexual family. 

While Barilla did not say outright that he hates gay people, his comments about wanting the ads to reflect “traditional families” implies that same-sex couples are not legitimate families. And ladies, that means we will be in the kitchen tonight cooking pasta for our man, because our central role is in the kitchen after all.

Comments do not have to be intentionally hateful and mean spirited to be demeaning. These comments were demeaning to same sex-couples, anyone in a non-traditional relationship or family situation, and to women. It is unfortunate that in 2013 people still have to be reminded that a woman’s “place” is not the kitchen.

This is not the first time people have boycotted a company because of offense statements and policies. People boycotted Chick-fil-A after it spoke out against gay marriage. Chi-fil-A eventually issued a moderated stance on gay marriage, claiming that the company had no intention of supporting any sort of pubic policy. People similarly boycotted Mel Gibson movies because of his antisemitic remarks. 

While these boycotts can be successful in getting some companies to change policies —or at least apologize for making offensive statements —it is questionable if they do much to make an actual change. With the threat of losing a lot of business and money, it is not surprising that companies would try to patch up bad press to save their profit.

Barilla sat down with a group of Italian LGBT advocates on Oct. 8 in an attempt to smooth over tension and stop the boycott. The boycott in North America had Barilla especially worried, since the company is a big player in the pasta market there. After the meeting, it looks like Barilla might work with same-sex couples in future campaigns. But it seems unlikely that he has completely changed his opinions on what constitutes a family and the role of women. 

In a capitalist system, the consumers have the power to demand better from companies. This was the LGBT community’s chance to demand respect. While it does not change the fact that they have fewer rights than their heterosexual counterparts, it shows the strength of the community and its’ ability to demand the kind of respect and equality its’ members deserve.

Now, in no way is a commercial comparable to the right to get married or adopt a child, but the two are related. The visibility offered by commercials helps to establish the legitimacy of the LGBT community. Yes, they have family dinner just like everybody else. It is humanizing.