things to think about


today i am thinking about: JCPENNEY’S GAY RIGHTS RECORD
February 13, 2012, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Ok guys, now I am going to be that guy, and be obsessed with something. Namely, how much JCPenney’s does or does not love gays.

Because I get it, right, there’s this shop in, it’s awesome, JCP didn’t cave when pressured by the crazy wackadoo right wing, that’s great and how it should be. But are they really so very pro-gay?

Yes, they have basic workplace protections for gay people. How much they are enforced, though, is always hard to tell. So what better way to find out than to look at their political contributions?

(Everything that follows is from opensecrets.org, linked right above.)

So in both the House and the Senate, JCP supports Republican candidates way above Democrats. Since 2006, JCP has spent $306,850 on Republican races, and $105,000 on Democrat ones. It isn’t fair to equate being Republican to being anti-gay, but it isn’t far. Some of JCP’s all-stars include Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann during their senate and house careers, respectively. A quick google scan of this year’s crop so far includes being stupid about DADT repeal, (Peter Roskam), a Planned-Parenthood-hating politician actually referred to in the lede of an article as “anti-gay” (Dean Heller), and almost everyone else at least going so far as to make a point saying that they are “pro-family” (which is basically code for “no gays please.”) The votes are anti-DADT repeal, anti-gay marriage, et cetera, et cetera. Basically standard Republican fare.

It’s not like they’re giving a lot of money, true – the largest gift I could find scanning the records (you have to pay to download/bring into a real data analysis program) was about $3,500. And yes, they gave to Dianne Feinstein, and Patty Murray, and Kirsten Gillibrand; clearly they are not evaluating their contributions and only giving to anti-gay candidates. But the thing is, they are also giving to way more candidates who aren’t good for homosexuals.

So where is THAT boycott? Where is the demand for support for a larger gay agenda? Supporting gays enough to sell to them is different than supporting gays enough to support legislators and, by extent, legislation that is homo-friendly.

The objection I feel even in writing this, however, is that of course they aren’t going to support only gay-friendly candidates. Their litmus test isn’t about gay rights. It isn’t fair to hold them to a standard that has nothing to do with their work. They’re a store! Not a gay rights organization!

To which I can only say: EXACTLY. They’re a store, not a gay rights organization. They are making business decisions. They thought it was strategic to support gays vis a vis using Ellen, and they stuck by their convictions because it was wise at the time. It makes me sad that we are lionizing a store for thinking we are worth selling to without even requiring them to support a larger gay agenda. Is that really how far our expectations have sunk?

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Today I am thinking about: BUYING THINGS IS NOT ACTIVISM
February 11, 2012, 3:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Look, guys, it needs to be said. Buying things is not activism.

I dig that some crackpot group on the far right decided to boycott JC Penney for having Ellen DeGeneres be the new spokesmodel. I dig that it is disrespectful to gay people everywhere, myself included, and pretty effed up given that Ellen is a) a married paragon of family values b) a national star c) about as non offensive and unthreatening as you can get on every dimension possible. And I get it: it is ridiculous to condemn Ellen as inappropriate just because she is a homo. But the way to fight this has nothing to do with buying things!

We are not being discriminated against because of where we like to shop, and we are not being somehow kept from shopping at JC Penney’s for being homos. If we were, then shopping might be a big deal or some kind of statement (see: the fierce activists challenging Jim Crow laws in the South.) But this is not what is going on – Penney’s is actually being supportive. So what is the point of any of this? Saying thank you for doing the right thing, aka continuing with their planned campaign? How is that activism?

It isn’t. The idea that I am going to thank a giant corporation for having the basic decency to not be douchey makes me sad. Penney’s already decided that they were up to have Ellen, and they are standing by her, and that is how it should be. Sure, write a letter or something, but there is no proof that Penney’s somehow is in danger from this boycott or that there are actual rights to be gained from this. Penney’s is the wrong place to be focusing our energy.

You know what would be activism? Going to the American Family Association – the sponsors and energy behind One Million Moms – and inundating them with calls asking why they are so homophobic. (hey, try 800-326-4543×206 to start – be polite but be persistent!) Ignoring crackpot right wingers who use giant political organizations to pretend to be grassroots is another good suggestion. What about protesting the AFA by taking them to court for obscenity charges – I sure find their message indecent and against the morals of our community. There are so many ways to actually fight homophobia, and counter One Million Fake Moms, rather than throw some party about buying things at a company that gave no indication they deserved any kind of special attention.

I don’t object to the idea of rewarding companies for doing the right thing. If, for example, Penney’s announced they were giving health care to all their employees, or if they endorsed the Retail Action Project’s campaign for a living retail wage, I’d be into that. The HRC indicates that they are pretty gay-friendly, so that’s something. But really? What is this actually doing for anyone who is actually a homosexual? 

As far as I can tell, this was started by two people who aren’t homos, and I assume that part of the reason it has gotten so much attention is that two of the people write for blogs that are owned in part by ABC (per the link above.) I guess makes me feel better, because I like to think our people would be more creative and interesting than this. How can we actually bring down the AFA? How do we think of ourselves as change agents rather than consumers? I suggest you start with the phone number above.* Let’s start giving them something else to deal with.

* The only phone number on the whole site that I could find was for Diane O’Neal, Director of Planned Giving. So don’t be too mean to her. Just call and ask who you can register a complaint with, or who you can ask about family appropriateness. Good questions include: is it ok to let your kids watch Ellen to help them learn what to avoid, your daughter wants to wear Kedz but Ellen wears them and does that make her gay, or the good old fashioned “I think you are homophobic and contributing to the deaths of gay teenagers. Do you feel comfortable knowing you are assisting in murder?”