I tend not to get too personal when it comes to my blog on matters that do not directly relate to Celiac disease. However, the recent Barilla debacle really struck a chord with me as yet another company took a huge misstep when their CEO, Guido Barilla, decided to get personal during an Italian radio interview, making disparaging comments about both gays and women. He of course quickly back-tracked and apologized four times I believe since his original comments went public and the Barilla site now features an apology and diversity statement as their homepage. I wanted to wait a bit and see how Barilla would handle the situation but the more that I waited (and their subsequent actions or lack thereof) just left a bad taste in my mouth.
As a gay Italian-American (who also happens to be adopted) I took personal offense to Barilla’s comments on gays and gay adoption – not to mention his take on the role of women in the home. You see, while I am completely comfortable in my skin and have never let gay define who I am – every time I see something like this happen it feels like taking a huge step backwards for human rights. That might sound like a bold statement but that is exactly what Barilla’s comments did. As CEO of a global company it is not acceptable to single out a group or groups of your consumers because of your personal beliefs. I mean come on – you make pasta – really good pasta that I actually grew-up on (in my pre-diagnosis days). How about you stick to what you know and leave your personal beliefs out of it?
Now I was lucky enough that growing-up gay was not an issue in my family – in fact, I was always encouraged to be who I am. Was it always easy in the real world – absolutely not. I mean kids (and adults) can be cruel and ignorant. My concern with Barilla’s comments is that young GLBT youth will see a comment like this and question their identity or feel like there is something wrong with them. This is 2013 and we simply cannot allow for any group to be discriminated against just for being who they are.
So to all the GLBT youth out there, I am here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you and be who you are – find your passion and follow it. Be bold, be happy, be YOU.
To Barilla, I am afraid that I can no longer support a company that singles out anyone – straight or gay, man or woman, orange or green. You made it personal so I am going to make it personal. Mr. Barilla, you are a bully – plain and simple. You made reference to traditional families and I am here to tell you that my husband of fifteen years and me are exactly that. Who are you to say otherwise? Oh, and for the record, in your view on the traditional family you not only alienated gay families but any family that does not prescribe to your ideal of man and women (with, judging by your comments would place the woman in the kitchen). What about all the single-parent families or families where both parents work and the woman does not adhere to your fundamental ideal?
Do I need to see me represented in every ad out there – not at all – but I do enjoy seeing it from time to time because it further helps to solidify that consumers are not one size fits all. And maybe, just maybe, the more others see representations of people who are different than themselves it will further help to reinforce that it is our inherent uniqueness that makes the world such an amazing place.
Me and my family put our spending power behind brands that we respect and those that respect us. My seventy-something year old Italian mother called me to tell me that she was done with the brand. She also said she had a stockpile in her pantry. I told her rather than throwing it out to go and donate it to a local food bank. She bought it well-before the comments and it should benefit someone who truly needs it by someone who Mr. Barilla would likely label as non-traditional.
So, I am afraid that it’s Ciao, Barilla. I like my gluten-free pasta without a side of hate. Basta!