Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Boycott!

How did we get the word “boycott?”

According to Wikipedia:

“The word boycott entered the English language during the Irish “Land War” and is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, the estate agent of an absentee landlord, the Earl Erne, in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. In September that year protesting tenants demanded from Boycott a substantial reduction in their rents. He not only refused but also evicted them from the land. Charles Stewart Parnell, in his Ennis Speech proposed that, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should refuse to deal with him. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Boycott soon found himself isolated—his workers stopped work in the fields and stables, as well as the house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, and the local postman refused to deliver mail.

The concerted action taken against him meant that Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Eventually 50 Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteered to harvest his crops. They were escorted to and from Claremorris by one thousand policemen and soldiers—this despite the fact that Boycott’s complete social ostracism meant that he was actually in no danger of being harmed. Moreover, this protection ended up costing far more than the harvest was worth. After the harvest, the “boycott” was successfully continued. Within weeks Boycott’s name was everywhere. It was used by The Times in November 1880 as a term for organized isolation.”

Some famous boycotts:

African Americans during the US civil rights movement;

the United Farm Workers union grape and lettuce boycotts;

the American boycott of British goods at the time of the American Revolution;

the Indian boycott of British goods organized by Mohandas Gandhi;

the antisemitic boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany during the 1930s;

the Arab League boycott of Israel and companies trading with Israel;

the Arab countries crude oil embargo against the West of 1973;

the US-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow;

the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles;

the movement that advocated “disinvestment” in South Africa during the 1980s in opposition to that country’s apartheid regime.

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

Do you know about the Motrin Twitter Drama?  A large group of mothers were extremely upset about this Motrin advertisement which was found insulting to mothers.

Some called for a boycott of Motrin:

The blogosphere and Twitterverse are all a buzz with Motrin’s condescending ad regarding babywearing moms…

Moms might be wondering, apart from spreading the word about this (which we’ve already done an awesome job of) and contacting Motrin, what else can we do?…

Here’s my suggestion, you can start by boycotting Motrin, but before you reach for a bottle of Tylenol instead, read on. Johnson & Johnson owns both Motrin AND Tylenol, so if you truly want to boycott them, you need to avoid both.

Eventually the Twittering Moms scared Motrin, and they pulled the ad.  Whether you agree with this action or not, this threat of a Motrin boycott was a legitimate use of consumer (and political) might.

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

On the other hand, I found this boycott disturbing.

Some gay marriage supporters are calling for a boycott of El Coyote Cafe [a popular restaurant in Los Angeles] after learning that manager, and reportedly partial owner Marjorie Christoffersen donated $100 to Proposition 8 group ProtectMarriage.com.

I have seen a number of articles recently where gay activists in CA have outed those who donated money to Proposition 8, calling for a boycott of their businesses.

Again —

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

This Mexican restaurant is not discriminating against gays.  One partial owner donated $100.  Do we want Republicans boycotting Democratic-owned laundromats or refusing to sit in a restaurant with Libertarian waiters?

As you know, I was vehemently against Proposition 8.  But it was a legal election, and the wrong side won.  It is time for those involved to get to work, pushing for gay marriage, working within the system and persuading voters.  A boycott of an establishment because of one individual’s VOTE is the worst kind of intimidation.  It is against this individual’s free speech.  This individual is not a power broker.  No one should be afraid of voting what they believe, fearing they will lose their job or be blacklisted in an industry.  Going against the Mormon Temple tax-exempt status is one thing, but attacking a religious individual because of his beliefs is Un-American.   You are not going to change this individual’s mind.  Some religious people just believe that marriage shouldn’t be re-defined to include same-sex marriages.  Start persuading others rather than seeking revenge.

I hate to bring this up, but if you don’t know, this month is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany.  The tone of this post is strongly influenced by that fact, even though I know it is a bit irrational to connect these threads.  On a single night in 1938, 92 Jews were murdered by the Gestapo and angry mobs, 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps, 200 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of Jewish businesses and homes ere ransacked.  I went to a memorial/conference this weekend that was attended by many survivors.   Scary and sad stuff!   But it got me thinking — bad economic times and contentious political activity always make me wary.  People get angry and frustrated, especially with those with differing views.   Is there already this combative feeling in the air?   I doubt our society would ever become as ugly as that of 1930’s Germany, but I hope we all remember the lessons of the past — the importance of seeing the humanity in others, whether it is a Republican or Democrat, a clueless New York copywriter writing Motrin commercials,  a gay man wanting to marry his partner, or a Mormon donating $100 to a stupid cause.

45 Comments

  1. I’ve never seen so many women get so upset over something so ridiculously stupid until I saw the hubbub over the Motrin ad. God forbid there’s an ad that says that slings are trendy. It’s okay if OK magazine and your favorite trashy mag says it, but if a commercial says it or says that moms occasionally look a bit crazy, now you’re fucked!

    Sorry about the editorial in your comments. I just get so frustrated with idiots who have nothing better to do with their time than find something to protest.

  2. I agree with you Neil. In my (admittedly remote) corner of the world, we have an extremely popular political leader who is constantly “fighting” for us, and has even described as “traitors” those who oppose him. How far are we from taking the machetes to these so-called traitors? That may seem extreme, but the worst atrocities build slowly, and usually have their roots in simple acts of intolerance.

  3. I agree with Avi about the Motrin thing. Honestly, it’s far more honest and far less offensive than all the cleaning product advertising out there that is so insulting and condescending to women. Kind of makes me want to go out and buy a ton of Motrin.

    As for the Prop 8 thing… the one thing that the majority of gays seem to have going for them is buying power. I think it’s about time they wield it so society realizes how much they actually do contribute.

  4. Finn — but businesses are not discriminating against them? It isn’t like the diners in the South that didn’t let blacks sit at the same table? The argument is over MARRIAGE! What is closing down this restaurant going to do? Punish this one religious co-owner who donated 100 bucks while hurting everyone else on staff? Since 70% of the African-American community voted for Proposition 8, perhaps gays should not shop in any African-American owned stores unless they first display a certificate on their window proving that they didn’t vote for Proposition 8?

    This is not a gay issue I am talking about here. It is… if you go down this road, you don’t know where it is going to lead.

  5. Oh good gravy. If we moms are just writing about poop and strained bananas and driving our kids to soccer practice, we’re criticized for being silly-willy do-nothings with the Internet being our new box of bons-bons that we stuff our overindulged, pathetic, faces with.

    But if we get together and begin to use our networking to begin tackling the ridiculous consumer-driven emotion-pandering of Madison Avenue, commercials and advertising that not only plays to stereotypes and prejudices regarding women and parenting choices but solidifies them, then we’re idiots.

    No, the Motrin commercial wasn’t the equivalent of humans having their heads sawed off with machetes in mass genocide. And yes, there are probably 1,000 other commercials just as offensive if not more so. But this is the one that went viral; this is the one that for whatever reason – Mercury in retrograde or all of us mommy-bloggers getting our period on the same day because we hang out with each other so much…whatEVER – this is where it struck home and took off.

    I’ll tell you what: before I had kids, I lived a small life with a shut mouth. Until the mama bear in me was roused one day, I never said “boo”, and even then, it was over something tediously mundane and subjectively silly and stupid to most anyone else who wasn’t spending their days at home wiping butts and scrubbing crayons from walls. But I said something out loud, backed it up, and got a response, a changed attitude, a positive effect. And all over a diaper. Or maybe it was about corporal punishment for children. I forget. I’ve become a relative loudmouth since then.

    Now I have the freaking nerve to write entire public blog posts about what I see as the bigotry toward huge swaths of humanity.

    So, if this Motrin “drama” – because women are all about being “dramatic” and not based in reality, don’t you know – is the catalyst or motivation by which even one bon-bon eating mommy blogger begins to get political and for the first time realizes that her one Twitter (i.e. voice) combined with thousands more can make a difference, then Hallelujah.

    I’ve said a lot of this elsewhere. Yes, the Internet acts more as a huge hammer right now. This is still relatively new. But when millions of people saw the effect, took part in the the cyber-movement – the advertising, campaigning, blogs, the emotional and rational appeals – that in essence helped to elect the next president, then yeah, this is not something they will or should put down.

    And moms are going to use it. Here was a test run. My apologies to Motrin that you were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a general and messy flex of a muscle; I have complete confidence that we’ll get the gross motor under control and then begin work on the fine motor skills. Next thing you know, women will be breastfeeding in public with wild abandon and finally getting equal pay for equal work. We’re smart like that for a bunch of idiots.

  6. I find the backlash against the Motrin response disturbing. IT WAS BAD MARKETING STRATEGY. As an ex-brand manager I can vouch for how incredibly stupid that ad was. I could care less about babywearing, but the ad itself was bad marketing. So bad, that it offended many people and was rightly mocked by many more. It’s not hysterics, or mass-thinking, or anything of the sort. Motrin.com wasn’t shut down by “hysterical” women – it was shut down by lazy copywriting and a marketing team that was asleep at the wheel.

    They just got a wake up call, is all.

  7. I disagree with the wholesale social discrimination against gays with respect to everything–the military, the religious and educational institutions, the adoption issue, and the marriage issue. However, I don’t believe that it is a boycott-able matter. I believe that it is a civil rights issue in a country that is supposed to be ruled by a Constitution and a body of laws.

    By the way, I happen to have been born straight, white, and female but I can empathize with people who were born gay, of color, and/or male. I want to see the matter litigated in “separate but equal being unconstitutional” cases pleaded in federal courts by lawyers as talented as those who argued for the rights of the prisoners in Guantanamo and won once and for all in the Supreme Court.

    People may be religious, but they may not run the United States according to their religious beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are. Anyway…

  8. Uh, Moms — this is what I wrote —

    “Whether you agree with this action or not, this threat of a Motrin boycott was a legitimate use of consumer (and political) might.”

    I am not backlashing at all. I am contrasting it with the boycotting of the restaurant in LA.

  9. Well, I don’t know if you’ve resolved your identity issues yet, but I can certainly say this: You are a damn fine writer, Neil.

  10. I know that you are not backlashing.

    I was backlashing against the backlashing in the comments representative of the backlashing that’s now a bigger hoo-haw then the original “drama”.

    BTW, liked the nazi tie-in. And yes, I agree about seeing the humanity. What’s the goal: to crush and destroy or to change hearts and minds, hope, peace, love, etc., etc.

  11. Hmmm. I see your distinction and I might not have thought about the Prop 8 boycotts that way. Interesting. But, I’m not sure if I agree with your premise (that boycott based on political speech or voting is wrong). I won’t shop at Walmart because of their corporate policies. Is that so different? If gay people in CA feel that certain restaurants don’t support them, for whatever reason, they certainly have the right not to patronize and to encourage others to do the same. Now, if they start taking crowbars to the windows at night, that’s obviously wrong, they’ve crossed the line, no matter how ‘right’ I think their position is (and I do support their right to be married).

    I know you said you realized they were only loosely connected, but I’m not sure peaceful boycott based on political positions or votes necessarily leads anywhere dangerous.

  12. I got YOUR point. I thought it was clear. I’m with Halushki on this one.

  13. Neil, I’m glad you’ve gotten people talking about this.

    I have to say in the grand scheme of things the Motrin ad wasn’t important, BUT I’m glad that what came of the hub bub was that both Madison Avenue and Moms got to see what real power they have.

    Now I’d like to direct that power at some of the larger problems in our society.

    Imagine if we were able to use our power insist that no child be uninsured or that the US didn’t engage in a war under false pretenses? We have the power. Maybe now that we know we can really assert it.

  14. AnyMommy — you are protesting Walmart’s corporate policies.

    No one is protesting El Coyote’s corporate policies. They serve the same watery margaritas to gays and straights. The protest is over one person’s VOTE in an election.

    If you really want to go this direction, then we should start making lists of which companies donate money to what causes. You’d be surprised how many restaurant chains, etc. have CEO’s who are conservative or belong to the NRA. To me, there is a big difference between individual’s personal politics AND the corporate policies of the company.

    Have you ever eaten in Carl’s Jr? Wendy’s? You might want to do some research on how owns these companies.

  15. I have to say, I’m still a bit confused about why moms, even baby-wearing moms, would boycott Motrin over that insipid ad. That said, I do understand why people would choose to boycott a restaurant owned by someone who donated to an organization with the sole goal of preventing gay marriage. This law is a denial of civil rights for same sex couples. This restaurant owner decided to give some of her money to further this cause. By boycotting, people can tell her that they do not want to pass their money along to support that kind of bigotry.
    You also mention that Republican could boycott businesses owned by Democrats. They could. It wouldn’t even be that original. After the Bush elections (and I use that term lightly), there were several organizations that tracked the donation of owners of various businesses and rated them as being more or less “blue”. I know many people, including myself who tried to avoid spending money at “red” businesses. It made me feel like I was spending money in a way that did not violate my personal beliefs. Hell, I don’t shop at Walmart for those same reasons.
    Modern boycotting is a non-violent act of political activity. We do not surround the businesses and loom over people trying to go to work. Nor do they require massive police assistance to get their jobs done as a result of a boycott.
    As one of my friends, who is a legal resident of the US, but not a citizen has said “I cannot vote with a ballot, but I can vote with my dollars.”

  16. I hesitate to use a yiddish phrase in light of this dark anniversary (maybe its appropriate?) — but OY VEY.

    I’m a Mom. I have two very small children. I carried them both in cutesie little carriers and do you know what? I stopped using them after my kids weighed about 10 lbs…CUZ THEY HURT MY BACK.

    I think the Motrin commercial was stupid, but if people got this up in arms over every stupid commercial ever made, well, then Burger King would never sell another burger after airing those highly disturbing “King” ads. (What’s with the dude’s head? Seriously.)

    It goes to show the power of Moms, though – right or wrong (hormonal or not), they can get things done. Now…how can I use my superpowers to get them to focus on REALLY important things? I’m willing to bet Moms could fix the economy…

  17. I just watched the ad 3 times and have no idea what the big deal is… There was nothing there that I have not heard from TONS of women (family, friends, colleagues) about having a new/young child. Isn’t that what Lynette on Desperate Housewives was all about in season one? The mom feeling she was going crazy?

    Why can’t people pick a project that will actually MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Why aren’t these mons pissed off that while there is never any money for school upgrades, after school programs, basic health care for children, etc, there is suddenly $700 billion dollars for Wall Street. If less than 10 percent of that money went to education, each state could have $1 billion to invest in children and their future. That is massive! Put the energy toward something that actually matters.

  18. Mammaloves — who is “we?” Are you talking about liberal-oriented mothers?

    Now that Obama’s election and this Motrin deal has shown the power of social media, EVERYONE is going to want in. Right wing churches will be teaching their congregants how to use Twitter. Companies are going to go on en masse, hoping to get cheap advertising. Obama (or some minor asst.) is going to Twitter from the White House, making us feel that we know the President, when mostly it will be totally planned and used for political reasons.

    And since “we” does not include “me,” it makes me realize that I need to search for fellow Twitter mates who think just like me. It is a waste of my time to talk with those who think differently, because power comes in numbers and influence. Perhaps, not being a parent, your interests are not in my interests. Maybe I should align myself with the childless on Twitter who think we pay too much taxes for public schools. While you are fighting for Motrin, how do I know that you will come to my need when I need you? No one is saying that power isn’t important. But then social media is all about power and manipulation.

    I like to talk to individuals, not “we.”

    I found it sad that during the election, there was so much conflict between the two political parties on Twitter. Eventually, it seemed like everyone just unfollowed everyone on the other side.

    I thought the whole idea of Obama’s election was that there was going to be unity and people working together, rather than everyone forming blocs to push their agenda.

    Is it too late to stop twitter from becoming the next talk radio?

  19. Follow that Dog — Wow, that really sort of blows me away. I’m not saying that you are wrong. And maybe it is the Jewish thing in the back of my mind, where store owners in Germany had to say that they were Jewish, so I am a little paranoid. But it would never occur to me to not shop at a “red” or “blue” business, unless there was a real blatant example of hatred or discrimination. Boy, that would just open up a can of worms for me because I tend to be fairly logical. Should I not buy clothes made in China? Is the owner a good person? Should I buy Windows rather than Mac because Bill Gates gives so much money to charity? Should I eat a falafel in the Arabic market across the street? How do I know that they aren’t sending money to terrorists? Or if they hate Jews?

  20. Here’s the big deal, and it’s subtle, so maybe you have to have been on the bludgeoning end of this club to get it: in the ad, a parenting choice based upon research and values – as well as practicality – is condescendingly presented as being simply a “fashion” statement; something that goofy, anxious, fretting new moms do because they think they have to do so to be an “official” (read:good) mom.

    It’s rooted in the well-publicized and hard-fought mommmy-wars which are fueled primarily – if you’re asking me – by advertisers and some authors playing on the insecurities of women taking on the important role of “mother” in a society that generally doesn’t value butt-wiping as a valid choice for educated or enlightened or “important” women.

    Yes, all that from a stupid Motrin ad. Sure, maybe a lot of us are over-thinking this. Maybe it’s all the pent-up frustration from the equally goofy sexism of the past campaign season and Motrin is the poor dog we’ve collectively kicked.

    But there were a about fifty other ways this ad could have been written that would point out that, sure, carrying kids around is hard work – possibly harder without a sling – without taking a sly kick via tone at us brainless mommys who make our parenting choices based upon some flavor of the day.

    Again, not genocide or even kids without health insurance. And yes, I do have a sense of humor. Ask me about rabid bats sometime.

    The difference between this ad and a bunch of moms bitching online or in a coffee shop about slings hurting their backs is that the bitching moms are most often being inclusive in that kind of venting about an otherwise agreed upon choice – which the commercial did attempt – without necessarily trying to alienate or make fun of someone else’s parenting choice as being shallow and knee-jerk – which the commercial did do.

    We moms, we women – many of us – are still trying to agree to disagree and respect each other’s parenting choices so that we can work all moms into whatever movement we’re working toward without infighting distractions. This ad played on the Mommy Olympics for the Golden Vagina Award that a lot of us have been trying to shut down so that we can get to the big things.

    Okay…I’m sorry, Neil, for hijacking your comments. I do in fact have other things to do. Thank you for your patience.

  21. Neil, the flip side of your comment regarding Twitter is this: like anything, there are the pros and cons.

    You’ve got the cons down.

    The pros are this: although the Internet has allowed nameless, faceless fools to spout hate and walk away without getting a good punch in the nose, it can also be a place where people can get to know each other first based upon words, thoughts, ideas. I don’t see you first as “man” or “black” or “not wearing enough of the right kind of clothing” or “needing a bath”. It is democratic…is that the word I want?…in that way.

    Frankly, as a stay at home mom, I don’t talk to much of anyone during the day but a toddler. Here, I’ve got a thousand voices saying different things, yes, but the more I Twitter or blog or read, the more the similarities and even synchronicities become apparent.

    Of course, the Internet is right now more the tool of those who have traditionally had the money and education to wield any particular medium. So miles to go, and all….

  22. Jozet — I asked my mother her opinion. She thinks there was less messages coming at mothers from everywhere years ago. There was Dr. Spock, and that was it. Everyone fed their kids crappy Macacroni and Cheese and Pop Tarts, so there weren’t any mothers pooh-poohed that trash, saying that children should eat organic. Today’s mothers also seem, in general, better educated, so there is more self-pressure to do it all “right” and more strong opinions.

    And also, there was no social media. Interesting….

    To be honest, I had never even heard the world “babywearing” until yesterday.

  23. Jozet — I still like blogging a whole lot better than Twitter. It’s more relaxed and civilized. I get edgy when I am on Twitter.

    On the other hand, I am sort of attracted to the power it has. If I write American Airlines sucks right here, no one will care. But if I say American Airlines sucks on Twitter, I am pretty sure that American Airlines is going to see it, and maybe even respond, afraid of getting a bad reputation.

  24. Well, the messages were also from your personal support group – usually your family and friends who were also part of your immediate community. When you had a baby, you had mother and aunties and a built in “tribe” who filled-in the blanks on any lapses in maternal instincts. I’m guessing there were still mommy-wars, but more limited battle fields?

    Now, not only have some of those immediate communities been lost, but at the same time, a more world-wide community is stepping in. Some of it is the community who wants “what’s best for your kids” via your dollars. With any new information, with any change – even good change of the education via sources available on the Internet – comes the unsettling realization that other people “do it different” and that plays on the insecurities of “am I doing it right?” or “how can I track my success and achieve my goals?” There are a lot more “rights” out there and the choices become burdensome.

    Then we women are told that we should just trust our innate maternal instincts and our bodies – when, again, in the past a lot of those “instincts” were learned over years of being in families and communities where children weren’t as readily segregated to kiddie activities in the kiddie section of life, but in which children and infants were moreso part of everyday life –

    you just were around kids and babies more, kids and babies were integrated more into the adult world, and so you “learned” your instincts that way –

    now fast-forward to an educated young woman with her first baby, no aunties around, and her “instincts” completely failing her as she tries to get her newborn to latch on to her breast. Cue the commercial which snarks about breastfeeding being a self-indulgent fashion statement that moms make to feel good about themselves as moms.

    In other words, I agree with your mom.

  25. “They serve the same watery margaritas to gays and straights. The protest is over one person’s VOTE in an election.” That made me laugh amidst all the spirited discussion.

    I have to agree with you and not just because I’m your Blog Crush of the Day. Thank you, by the way. I adore your writing.

    I watched the Motrin drama from the sidelines. It didn’t have the same effect on me as it did on others. Your mom sounds like a smart woman.

  26. OK, professional adman here. So trust me on this.

    I guarantee that every word of that commercial was actually spoken by real mothers in a focus group. I’ve been there.

    Some diligent copywriter, earnestly listening to these women, took it all down.

    Knowing that people buy more stuff from a simpatico salesperson, he included all those funny things that the women said to each other; which they laughed over, and about which they nodded “how true!”

    His clients would surely have congratulated him for being so diligent. For having taken the time and trouble to study consumers, and to gain insight into them as human beings. Indeed, he might think himself a highly moral adman, since he was listening to the truths women revealed about themselves, rather than imposing his own idea of what that might be.

    (When I say “he”, let’s assume he is a he.)

    Hey, presto. It becomes an ad. The women who, in truth, actually wrote the ad, hate it.

    Poor copywriter. He forgot many lessons of human nature.

    Like, self-deprecating remarks are never sincere.

    Like, saying something to another human being, and putting it on a billboard, are two different things.

    Or maybe, like, the truth hurts. That many women are insecure about their parenting skills, and that their shame and fear of falling short is salved, in part, by making visible displays of doing the right thing. A fact, but not a pretty one.

    The line about looking like “an official mommy” is a case in point. I would bet a substantial sum that one or more mothers actually said it, in a moment of candour.

    When someone has a blemish on his nose, the last thing you do is give him a mirror.

  27. I’m not a mother, so I probably should stay out of this altogether, but after reading post after post after post about this whole nightmare and finally seeing the add I don’t find it that offensive at all. There have been far more offensive adds on tv, but none that motivated me to boycott.

  28. OK, professional gay here. So trust me on this.

    Straights have boycotted gays for a lot longer than gays have boycotted straights. Military recruiters boycott gay men and women, with government-sponsored impunity. Unless you’re a hairdresser, an out gay businessperson has a tougher time attracting clients than a straight one–yes, even in this day and age.

    And just remember that it wasn’t so long ago that country clubs and employers boycotted Jews.

    One should never boycott a person because of the way they voted. That’s why ballots are secret.

    But if I were a black person, would I eat at a restaurant where people gave money to the Klan?

    Comparing the activities of the gay community against this restaurant to Kristallnacht is just plain wrong, Neil.

    The Nazis publicised which shops were owned by Jews. A boycott.

    The Nazis then enacted laws that prevented Jews from practising their trades and professions. An injustice.

    The Nazis then destroyed or confiscated Jewish property, and murdered them. A crime. A hate crime.

    The gay protestors who have committed vandalism against private property in their protests should be punished. They commited a crime. Just like the Kristallnachters. Throw the book at them.

    But the boycotters–they are within their rights to vote with their wallets, and to say why. That’s freedom of speech.

    Churches have loudly urged boycotts of companies that offer same-sex spousal benefits. Many of those companies have succumbed to the pressure. Websites list the companies that have done so, and I distribute my custom based on this fact. I am disappointed that so few of my fellow citizens do likewise.

    That the boycottee here is a run-of-the-mill, everyday citizen who was donating to a cause (I understand) because her church recommended it, is an important point.

    Injustice and hate are seldom imposed from the top down. The complicity of ordinary citizens who think their actions are innocent or inconsequential, enable the greater oppression.

    My recollection of reports on the woman’s reaction, show her shocked and upset that her “innocent” donation could excite such hate amongst customers against whom she bore no personal grudge.

    It was as though a restaurateur in Germany in 1934 could look one of his Jewish customers in the eye and say, “I have nothing against you personally, but I don’t think you should be allowed to practice law. By the way, that will be five marks, plus tip.”

    Does he have a right to get upset when a bunch of Jews draw attention to the fact that he’s a party member?

    Remember, the donor’s restaurant is not being boycotted because of her membership in a church. Everyone has freedom of religion. It concerns a public, political act.

    Wedges have two ends. One of them is thin. Perhaps so thin, that at first we don’t even feel the cut. But when the blood starts flowing, it will be too late.

    Remember, I’m a gay-marriage exile. My partner, who is not an American, cannot obtain a US visa on the basis of our relationship, like a straight husband or wife could. I had to leave my country.

    The votes in California, Florida, Arkansas and Arizona have entrenched my second-class status. How much longer before the popular vote deprives me of career opportunities? (Who wants their children to be taught by a homosexual? And a gay doctor touching my private parts? Eeuw.) How much longer before the many military officials who wish to repeal DADT are shouted down by the mob?

    Boycott away, I say.

    * * *

    “I doubt our society would ever become as ugly as that of 1930’s Germany…”

    It’s a pity Matthew Shepherd isn’t around to answer that question.

    Expect a long blogpost on this one.

  29. Headbang8 — I wish I had half of your brains and persuasive skills.

  30. “The line about looking like “an official mommy” is a case in point. I would bet a substantial sum that one or more mothers actually said it, in a moment of candour.

    When someone has a blemish on his nose, the last thing you do is give him a mirror.”

    I agree that mothers have said this. And again, it was, imo, the sad consequence of losing our parenting mentors and communities, and admen rushing in to fill that role. Except, for them, the dollar is the bottom line, not survival of a child both physically, emotionally, and socially. Dare I suggest that advertising employs a fair bit of sleight of hand when it comes to shuffling the facts and promoting it’s own definitions when it comes to “conflict/resolution” to make the sale?

    Chicken, meet egg.

    This was another stab at not only presenting the problem, but defining it, and then solving it. And Motrin got it wrong in trying to get it right. Fact check: we know we’re insecure, no thanks to everyone whose been telling us so for so long ad trying to sell us products to finally salve our insecurities that they’ve been telling us we have.

    Now, let me tell you about my weight problem and age problems since at 120 pounds and 42 years old, many advertisers are convinced that I’m about to slit my wrists if I don’t get the next miracle surgery to make people love and respect me more.

    Thanks for telling me I have a “blemish” and then fixing it for me.

  31. Very well put, Neil.

    Where do I donate to your cause?

  32. I read your post last night. Read it again this morning and spoke with a gay friend in NYC. (I’m in Utah so we exchange information about Prop 8 and the LDS church. I’m not LDS or gay. I do not support Prop 8.) I was in 100% agreement with you Neil, nodding my head as I read. After speaking with my friend, who wasn’t quite as passionate as Headbang8, but toggled between what was right or wrong about boycotting based on an *individual’s* actions, beliefs and vote – I’m left really thinking about this. My friend echoed your words without having read your post, but had sympathy and understood why people were boycotting – leaning towards Headbang8’s opinion.

    A peaceful boycott won’t likely change a person’s opinion in the case of Prop 8. I suppose it might plant a seed that could be nurtured by someone else. I don’t know. Unfortunately, I think the Prop 8 boycotts you describe will simply fuel the emotion and positions that already exist. Piss everyone off and discrimination against gays will continue.

    The priority for Prop 8 opposers should be to strategize how to educate those who are so fearful of and not exposed to gay people.

    I enjoyed your words, and Headbang8’s. You two are worthy adversaries (I know you’re not TRULY adversaries) and excellent debaters. Makes for great reading, and important thinking.

  33. I disagree with your thoughts about boycotting and completely agree with Headbang8. I think it’s a non-violent way to get one’s point across. For many of us, it’s the only kind of power we have.

    I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m careful of what I’m supporting with it. I don’t shop at WalMart. I didn’t buy grapes that weren’t organic, and I participated in the Anti-Apartheid boycott as well. As consumers, it’s our job to educate ourselves and put our money where our mouths are.

  34. Churlita – Thanks. I think it is great that you do that. I’m just saying there is a subtle difference between an organization and an individual. And I’m not talking specifically about Proposition 8, but just what it means if you take it to the logical conclusion.

    Participating in an anti-apartheid boycott is one thing. Boycotting institutions that don’t treat gays equally is one thing.

    The restaurant example is a boycott based on someone’s legal and free right to vote.

    That is not a boycott. This restaurant cannot “change.” You cannot force this individual to change his beliefs. A boycott means that you want to change something — a policy of an institution.

    In this example, it is more intimidation.

  35. I pass that restaurant every day (I’m a block from it right now) and was wondering why the hell there were so many anti-Prop 8 people gathered in front of it every night. Thanks for clearing that up! I think you and your commenters have made some excellent points. I especially think Jozet at Halushki has been very articulate in her attempts to explain why this ad was so offensive even though it’s not exactly on the scale of representing man’s inhumanity to man. When I watched the commercial, I just thought it was unbelievably stupid–someone in that ad agency should have realized that this wouldn’t come off well. They need to retool their focus groups! That said, I would never support a boycott of Motrin or Advil because of the ad. But that’s me.

    Regarding the restaurant, what made me side against the boycott was the comment from the person who made the donation. “I love you guys, I would never do anything to hurt you, I wish I hadn’t done it.” There are so many people and business owners who say vile, stupid things about gay people and do not apologize–why not take this woman’s regret at face value and realize that she was torn on the issue of Prop 8 for whatever reason and was sincerely sorry for the pain it caused her gay friends (and yes, not happy about the loss of business and bad press, either). In my view, her actions deserve forgiveness on the part of the gay community and she could end up being the poster girl for people who supported Prop 8 being educated more about these issues and possibly changing her mind about it. Why alienate her more with a vendetta that also penalizes everyone else at this very gay-friendly restaurant? There are so many other people worthy of such attention. That said, I understand why the patrons of this restaurant were horrified and felt betrayed when they found out the woman had donated money to the Prop 8 cause and I don’t blame them for questioning whether or not they would continue to go there. But I would hope that they by now have met with her and changed their tune. This is not a vindictive, gay-hating woman.

    I admit I pored through the list of people who gave money to the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign and it did affect me, why wouldn’t it? I think it’s everyone’s right to take their business elsewhere if they feel an individual or business is supporting something that they find abhorrent. For me it’s clearly selective and I realize it can be a slippery slope because if we REALLY knew what every company was doing, we’d have to boycott most of the world. Actors are an interesting case for me. For some reason, I was always against the attempted “boycott” of Vanessa Redgrave. She could blather on and on in her personal life about the Zionist hoodlums or any other crazy-ass topic and that wouldn’t have the slightest impact on my desire to see her latest film. But I have to say, owing partly to his large contributions to Prop 8, that I am officially and completely done with Mel Gibson. Nothing on earth could get me into a theatre to watch one of his films. I find him an arrogant, hypocritical, anti-Semitic son of a bitch and I’m just not interested in seeing his “art” anymore. Is that “fair?” Especially when I’m willing to give Vanessa Redgrave and other actors so much slack? Probably not, but there you have it. I will not shell out a cent for anything Mel Gibson supports.

    I’ll walk by El Coyote later today and see where the boycott stands. In my opinion, gay people should only boycott the restaurant because it sucks. Have you ever eaten their large plates of melted orange cheese? Do these people know that the excellent El Cholo is only a few miles away?

  36. Via Jane Devin —

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/19/home-depot-founder-retail_n_144863.html

    Home Depot Founder: Retailers Who Don’t Support GOP “Should Be Shot”

  37. “The restaurant example is a boycott based on someone’s legal and free right to vote.”

    Just wanted to comment on that statement, Neil, because I don’t see what a person’s “legal and free right to vote” has to do with anything. No one is saying that this woman had no right to vote, the boycott was about her public donation to a cause that these people find abhorrent, that they think directly affects them in a very negative way. I still don’t think the restaurant “deserves” the boycott (see above) but I understand why they were upset. And I have to say, I think the comparison to Kristallnacht is not valid at all, and you know how quick I am to make allusions to Nazi Germany (I just wrote an insanely long blog post on the anniversary of that day). The only parallels I can make between the Nazis and this issue is to say that the wording of Prop 8 reminds me very much of the Nuremberg Laws Hitler put in place in the 30s that prohibited Jews from marrying Gentiles.

  38. Danny and Neil, I agree with both of you on one thing. The boycotters made their point a long time ago, and did so in a visible, public way. They received what sounds like a sincere apology.

    Traudl Junge, Hitler’s former secretary, said something very wise as she wrestled with guilt over her complicity. “You can’t change the past. But you can change yourself.” That’s all one can hope to ask of the restaurant owner.

    Though I vehemently support their right to make a public fuss about donors, perhaps the No-on-8 people should toss away the rulebook written in Nürnberg and take a leaf from the playbook of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The ones who should be boycotted, and yes, intimidated are the unrepentant. For they are the people who rob us of a peaceful future. Not the contrite.

  39. You’re ignoring the personal nature of the El Coyote boycott. Most of the customers who are staying away were Marjie’s friends — loyal patrons who’ve kept the place in business all these years. Some of them were married, and Marjie new this when she chose to back legislation that would strip them of their rights. She supported something even though she should have known it would hurt people that she knew. She just didn’t care how it would impact them. And going from comments made by her son, she apparently thought she could get away with it. Most of the El Coyote boycotters feel personally betrayed, and that’s why they don’t want to go back.

    Also the Mormon church is going to be heavily involved in promoting anti-gay legislation. Since Marjie is a devout Mormon, 10% of her earnings will be given to the church. If gays continue to give El Coyote their business they’ll be indirectly funding an organization that attacks them.

  40. Jon — here is where I get a little anxious, and why I hit everyone over the head with the Nazi allusion, which I apologize for. It is quite unfair, and I hate when people always make comparisons to something so horrific. It just happened to be on my mind when I went to that memorial.

    Clearly, the Mormon Temple played a big part in backing Proposition 8. Mormons do donate 10% of their earnings to the temple. What is the legitimate — and non-hateful way to proceed? Should activists not do business with ANY Mormons, knowing that their money is going to their “enemy?” Do you see how this issue contains a bit of uncomfortableness — with one angry group pointing the finger at individuals of a religious group because of their beliefs.

    I am not a Mormon, so I can’t speak for one. But do you think individual Mormons really hate gays and don’t want them to have equal rights, or do Mormons feel that it is an infringement on their religious view of marriage? Probably the latter. Maybe meetings that try to unify the two sides — two minorities in America — would solve more.

  41. If a place of business is run by someone who voted to take away my rights, I sure as hell have a right not to spend my money at that establishment.

    We still have a choice where we choose to do business.

  42. Such a well-written post, such profound words from author and commenters alike. I’ve been reading for so long that my eyes burn and my back aches.

    Tell me, should I go for the Motrin, or a watery margarita?

  43. Man, I don’t get it. Now if we were talking about killing babies and blowing up daycares, I’d totally defend a side but we are talking about advertising. Just like a blog, you can choose to pay attention or skip ahead if you think it is silly or unreasonable.

  44. if we boycotted products from every advertiser that produced stupid, condescending and questionable advertising, we would no longer be a consumer society.

    interesting.

  45. Neil — I’ve skipped the resulting discussion so I am not sure what else I have missed, but I just wanted to say that this is a really good post — thoughtful, well-written and superb points. Thanks for writing it.

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