ROME, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacturer, prompted calls for a consumer boycott on Thursday after telling Italian radio his company would never use a gay family in its advertising.
“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role,” Barilla, 55, said in an interview with Radio 24 on Wednesday.
Barilla - one of the best known pasta brands around the world - is one of Italy’s biggest advertisers, and for many years has used the image of a happy family living in an idealised version of the Italian countryside, with the slogan: “Where there’s Barilla, there’s home”.
In the interview, Barilla said he opposed adoption by gay parents, but was in favour of allowing gay marriage, which is not legal in Italy. His comment about advertising was in response to a direct question about whether he would ever feature a gay family in his company’s commercials.
If gays “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand,” he said.
Aurelio Mancuso, head of gay rights group Equality Italia, said Barilla’s comments were an “offensive provocation” and called for a boycott of the company’s pasta, sauces and snacks.
“We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” Mancuso said. Many Italians used social media to voice support for a boycott.
Alessandro Zan, a gay member of parliament, said on Twitter: “You can’t mess around with consumers, including gay ones.”
Barilla issued a statement on Thursday apologising, explaining that he was trying to say “simply that the woman plays a central role in a family.”
I actually bought some Barilla for the first time last week (everything else was sold out).
It was alright, but give me two basically identical products and let me know one gives money to an asshole and… well the other guy is getting the money.
He’s probably an asshole too, but he was smart enough to avoid me finding out about it.
Edit:“Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role”
Um… last I heard about half of homosexuals are women. I also hear that women just LOVE being cast as housewives who cook in the kitchen all day.
It looks like Barilla pasta went through some major soul-searching this last year, and they have done about as close to a 180 as such a firm could. According to the Washington Post, Barilla has consulted with major gay-rights groups and implemented a great many LGBT-friendly policies since this story broke last year, including extending insurance benefits to transgendered employees and their families, donating money to LGBT-causes… and featuring a lesbian couple in an (online) ad.
Of course, it’s easy to be cynical and roll your eyes at this as the insincere reaction to a (largely ineffective) boycott, but the chief of the company has apologized for his previous words pretty much whenever anyone asks:
“I am proud to say that, as a result of these discussions, we have all learned a great deal about the true definition and meaning of family, and over the past year we have worked hard to reflect that throughout our organization.”
And more to the point, acknowledging when a company tries to make good is probably as important as calling them out when they do wrong.
Seth Adam, a spokesman for GLAAD, a gay advocacy group that has also met with Barilla, said it is important to acknowledge someone when they have undergone an “evolution” in support of gay rights.
“I’m not giving anyone license to say things that are discriminatory,” he said. “However, I do think it’s okay to learn, and I think we’ve seen that in elected officials to everyday families.”
That too is a major victory for the gay-rights movement. From that same article:
In the past, companies had to be careful not to offend groups that opposed homosexuality, said Bob Witeck, a corporate crisis consultant who specializes in gay issues. Two decades ago, Witeck helped American Airlines weather criticism over its decision to market to gays. His advice at the time was for the company to explain to the opposition that this was simply a good business decision.