Chick-Fil-A and Oreos (And Doubtless Many More)–On Companies "Coming Out"

Hello internet people. As you can probably guess from the title of this post, I’m about to get a little controversial here and talk about something that’s raising a lot of debate these days–the issue of gay rights/gay marriage.

I think I’ve made my stance on the issue abundantly clear throughout the history of this blog, but in case you’re joining me more recently, I’ll recap. My basic philosophy is live and let live. It isn’t really anybody’s business to tell anyone else who to love or who to marry. This country was founded on freedom and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I certainly don’t remember it saying “pursuit of happiness (unless of course you happen to be gay or otherwise different).” On the other hand, church and state were intended to be separate as much as possible, so I don’t think the government can or should necessarily force churches to allow gay marriages within their own walls (i.e. force them to marry two men or two women if it’s against their doctrine). Let them decide for themselves, but make it legal in the eyes of the government (which is intended to protect the aforementioned rights for its citizens) for two men or two women to be married by a justice of the peace, etc, just as a man and woman can do if they so choose. Perhaps you think I’m simplifying the issue, and maybe I am, but that’s merely my opinion on the matter.

Regardless, that isn’t what I want to focus on with this post. What I find fascinating and even a little bit puzzling is the reaction the gay rights issue is beginning to see in the media–it’s gone beyond news coverage and factions on the internet to the point of companies themselves taking a stance on where they see themselves in the issue. No doubt you’ve seen the pictures that Oreo released of an oreo cooked stacked with rainbow creme, in support of gay rights. No doubt you’ve seen the responding wave of approval throughout the gay community and the supporters of gay rights and the wave of shock and anger of those who are against gay rights (I’m trying to be impartial here, I hope that it’s working). Recently, the openly Christian company Chick-Fil-A officially “came out” (so to speak) about their stance, taking the (not surprising) opposite view on the matter. Regardless of what you believe or who you’re angrier with, it’s interesting when you think about the motivations and potential repurcussions involved in such a move.

Why is it necessary for people who make food to say whether they do or don’t support gay rights? Since when do we mull over the important questions of our political leanings when we order a chicken sandwich or take a bite out of a cookie? Thanks to this movement, many of us are going to be faced with those questions now. If I buy chicken nuggets, am I going to be seen as homophobic? If I buy a pack of Oreos will that come to mean I’m gay in the eyes of some? My question is, what were the people in charge of these companies thinking when they did these things? I find it hard to believe that a corporation banded together and was so moved by an issue that they had to stand up one way or the other. When I see a company, I see a body that’s making a product for profit… so what’s the deal here? When did politics become a part of it?

Where’s the profit here? Is this a strategy to gain massive support in one political area, despite the likelihood of sacrificing the other? I can’t speak for the companies and I don’t know the numbers, but I think it will be interesting to see how sales are affected for these and other businesses that “come out” with their particular leanings. Are we going to see a rise in sales for Oreo as the homosexual community and its supporters decide to go to the rainbow-striped cookie company for their sweet tooth cravings, as a thank you for their support? Will there be a decrease in sales in conservative areas as people boycott Oreo for the picture? And on the other side of the issue, will Chick-Fil-A increase sales with the anti-gay while losing the support of the gay community?

Watching my Facebook feed has always been an interesting way to gather news about people’s feelings in politics. I come from a small town with more conservative leanings, so many of the people I went to high school with posted their outrage over the (what seems to me utterly harmless, even a little inspiring) picture of the rainbow Oreo, saying how they weren’t going to eat the cookies any more. On the other hand, plenty of my Facebook friends are either openly gay themselves or open supporters, so I also saw the picture shared with “GO OREO” and other such positive responses. Of course, when Chick-Fil-A “came out” I saw the outrage and the beginnings of boycotts on that end, as well (I didn’t notice anyone cheering in support, but it could have easily escaped my notice).

The question for these companies, economically speaking, is going to be who picked the “right” side in so far as a business move. Will the losses Chick-Fil-A suffers as a result of the admission of an anti-gay stance outweigh the potential increase in patronage by those who share their views? While the official Chick-Fil-A twitter profile says “Our mission is to create raving fans; we plan to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the political arena,” I doubt this statement can really undo what has already been said. Does this statement mean the company realized an econonmic misstep? Similarly, will Oreo see a loss or a gain as a result of their support for the gay community? It will be interesting to see.

My own Facebook news feed, no doubt a skewed poll due to the likelihood that more of my “Facebook friends” will share my personal opinion, would seem to say that the outrage at Chick-Fil-A’s public statement (which resulted in the circulation of an image that, as far as my limited research shows, did not originate from the company itself of the iconic Cows wearing “God Hates Fags” signs, etc) outweighs the anger at Oreo’s supportive, though undoubtedly controversial, picture of a rainbow striped Oreo cookie.

Naturally the issue is NOT an economic one by any means, and I don’t mean to say that it is. But I’m not so sure that’s what companies are thinking when they take their stance on issues that, quite frankly, have little to nothing to do with what food we eat. I hope I’ve managed to offend as few of you as possible (you’re all entitled to your opinions and I’m entitled to mine, as well) and that you will share your own opinions with me in open debate, both about the issue at large and this specific aspect of it.

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