Barilla pasta empire CEO, Guido Barilla, released a video today apologizing again to the gay community for saying the other day, among other things, that he would never put a gay family in an ad for his pasta because the Barilla company likes “traditional families.”
Barilla went on to explain that while he’s favorable to gay marriage, he doesn’t thinks gays should adopt, and is concerned that gay families somehow undermine the woman’s role in the family (presumably, the kitchen). Barilla concluded by saying that if gays weren’t happy with what he was saying, they could go buy someone else’s pasta.
“Non faremo pubblicità con omosessuali, perché a noi piace la famiglia tradizionale. Se i gay non sono d’accordo, possono sempre mangiare la pasta di un’altra marca. Tutti sono liberi di fare ciò che vogliono purché non infastidiscano gli altri”.
“We won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family. If gays don’t like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta. Everyone is free to do what they want, provided it doesn’t bother anyone else.”
After his comments caused a bit of outrage, Barilla tried to backtrack – kinda (agin my translation):
“With reference to statements made yesterday, I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they have hurt the sensibilities of some people. In the interview I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family.”
Well. To say that this didn’t go over well would be an understatement.
The reaction, online and internationally, from gay people and our allies, was fast and furious, and devastating.
Our story here on AMERICAblog, that broke the story in English, has 166,000 “likes” on Facebook, and nearly 2,000 comments on our site. Both are records for us. In addition, nearly 300,000 people read our story yesterday. The story also exploded in the mainstream media.
So it’s understandable that the Barilla company then issued a series of apologies to try to quell a growing online, and offline, furor. They didn’t work, in part because they weren’t complete enough.
Fast forward to tonight. CEO Barilla has released another apology, this time on video. It’s difficult to watch the video, and Barilla’s near comatose delivery, without thinking of Patty Hearst. Clearly this is someone who’s had a bad 48 hours, and appears under some duress. (He also offered the same statement in Italian on Barilla’s Italian Facebook page.)
In response to the video, a number of people on Facebook defended Barilla’s homophobia, and actually got upset with him for apologizing. Sadly for Barilla, his defenders didn’t do him any favors:
One woman raised a good point about Barilla not yet explaining what he meant by “the central role of the woman in the family.” Many took that to mean that a woman’s place in the kitchen behind a boiling pot of pasta. Which raises the question of whether Barilla’s apology really changes anything. I will say that by the fourth time you’ve apologized I do start to feel that perhaps you’re starting to get the message. But having said that, has Barilla’s position changed? Will the ban on including gay people in Barilla’s ads be lifted? No word on that.
The responses to Barilla’s Italian video were quite interesting since most were Italians. A lot of course defended him – Italy is a more conservative country on these matters than America, or northern Europe. But on comment, from someone critical of Barilla, stood out (translated from the Italian):
Many people do not realize that the people who “exclude” gays and then make them feel like second class citizens are found throughout the world, and specifically in Italy. What has been said is very serious and no excuse can hide that fact. In Italy, people die from homophobia. There are kids who kill themselves because they’re excluded from, and misunderstood by, their “traditional families.” Mr. Barilla has the freedom to make commercials with whomever he wants, but the dignity of a person – which also comes from the mouth – should be protected by a company that gives top priority to the quality of a product. We are what we eat, Feuerbach said: In addition to pasta, we should try to feed openness, and understanding. After all we are all human beings.
Does all of this matter? Sure it does. It’s not just about Barilla, and it’s not just about pasta. It’s about sending a message to corporations, and the world really, that homophobia isn’t okay, and that we now have the power to fight back. And we will.
Barilla got that message, shockingly loud and clear. In many ways, this Barilla brouhaha makes me think of Russia. Another place where a homophobe thought he could get away with minimizing our humanity. And was shocked to find out that he couldn’t. In the same way that the world rallied to the cause of gay and trans Russians, the world – both straight and gay people – rallied to the cause of LGBT Italians. And that’s pretty cool, in addition to awfully important.