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27 Sep 2013

Italy pasta exec's anti-gay remarks spark boycott

Barilla, one of the best known pasta brands around the world, has found itself in hot water after its president said in an interview this week that the company wouldn't feature same-sex couples in his commercials because he prefers the "classic" family.

It seems gay men and lesbians around the world have taken to social media to announce that they will indeed boycott the pasta brand after the president of Italy-based Barilla suggested that gay men and lesbians should "eat another pasta" if they are displeased that the company will not feature families with a same-sex couple in commercials.

Guido Barilla, president of Italy-based Barilla

Guido Barilla, president of Italy-based Barilla, one of the best known pasta brands around the world, reportedly said on an Italian radio program La Zanzara (The Mosquito) on Radio24, "For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company."

"I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others… [but] I don't see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family," reported The Guardian.

When asked what effect that view would have on gay consumers, he added, "Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say they will… eat another."

He went on to discuss gay rights, saying that he "respected everyone" and is in favour of gay marriage, but against gay adoption.

The company on Thursday issued a statement in Italian on the company Facebook page with an apology and a defense of his comments.

"I apologise if my words have led to misunderstandings or controversy, and have bumped the sensibilities of some people," wrote Barilla. "I have the utmost respect for homosexuals and for freedom of expression to anyone. I also said and repeat that I respect marriages between persons of the same sex. Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is a symbol of welcome... for all."

As seen on Twitter.

Barilla US, the American division of the Italian company, also apologised via Facebook and Twitter late this afternoon for remarks by the company's chairman Guido Barilla, made on a radio program last night.

"At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company. While we can’t undo recent remarks, we can apologise. To all of our friends, family, employees, and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry."

The pasta company's president's remarks ignited a firestorm on social media overnight and the protest became a trending topic on Twitter with the hashtag #boicottabarilla which means boycott Barilla. Gay rights groups in America and Italy have also slammed the remarks with gay rights group Equality Italia launching a full boycott of every Barilla product.

GLAAD, an advocacy group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, says it plans to contact US supermarket chains and ask officials to speak out against Barilla's comments and in support of their own LGBT consumers. The group's vice president of communication Rich Ferraro added that it had also emailed the company an invitation to meet with LGBT community members "and get to know how traditional we really are."

Barilla, who with his brothers Luca and Paolo, represent the fourth generation running the family-owned firm founded in 1877. The company owns 13 brands which distributes its products in 100 countries under names that include Barilla, Mulino Bianco, Wasa, Vesta, Gran Cereale and others.

Italy is one of the few countries in Western Europe which does not recognise any form of same-sex partnership.

Reader's Comments

1. 2013-09-27 21:54  
"Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is a symbol of welcome... for all." Yes if you happen to be a straight classic Italian family - everyone else go buy another pasta you are not welcome in Barillas idea of a family. Fortunately for me I have never purchased Barilla pasta and certainly won't start now!
2. 2013-09-27 22:13  
While we all should be gracious, and not vindictive, I think it's critical we send a message that we would not contribute to intolerance of any kind. 10% of the world's population plus allies cannot be ignored. Please broadcast this. I hope other inclusive companies could ride on this tidal wave.
Comment #3 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-27 22:14
4. 2013-09-28 00:53  
I used to buy Barilla and now I will enjoy another brand from a company that is more open minded... It is sad to see people being this ignorant and intolerant in todays business. Hopefully this man and company will eventually learn to treat all people the same...

It is not the first case of this type of thing and won't be the last.
5. 2013-09-28 02:00  
It's gone viral on Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post etc.

The idiot committed brand suicide!

6. 2013-09-28 02:05  
never heard of barilla
7. 2013-09-28 06:42  
Its very interesting to see morons like this guy quickly go on the charm offensive and try to retract their remarks (or qualify the supposed context), when the levels of disposable income of the gay community is pointed out to them. It isn't that great a pasta anyway.
8. 2013-09-28 08:37  
I find it thought provoking and somewhat amusing to hear this man and his family's company try to put a spin on what he stated on the radio talk show. Basically he has opened his mouth and inserted his foot, tried to remove foot, and tried to look good at the same time. Not succeeding so far! LOL
With the instantaneous global communications we have today, people who are in the public's eye, running companies, or governments should choose their words and actions carefully.

This intolerant attitude toward each other isn't something people can do, (for very long), and survive if they continue down the same path in this day and age.

I agree with jeh2112 in that he has committed brand suicide. Only time and/or if he really makes an amends that will satisfy the populous will the company recover from financial loss over the poor judgement he has made.

Never the less: Thought provoking.........
Comment edited on 2013-09-28 08:43:43
9. 2013-09-28 09:59  
i had to read this a couple of times to try to understand the offence its created... actually whilst what he said was perhaps not the smartest thing to have said when you are trying to push a product line, and further perhaps was on the fringe of political correctness,but i really cant get excited enough about it to be offended... he has expressed a view that shows a reasonable acceptance of our life style choice without pandering to it.... his personal right i feel... on a more personal note i am more impressed by a products quality rather than it being potrailed as a family friendly or gay friendly product... yes i would boycott a product with anti gay stance, but sorry this really does not qualify as such...
10. 2013-09-28 11:27  
I am going to take his advice. Time to shift to another brand.
Comment #11 was deleted by its author on 2013-09-28 23:28
12. 2013-09-28 19:34  
in consistency, do not know what classic is
none classic is
see what dress he wear? classic? 1877 is not classic age
He did not wear classic watch
is fridae classic? there is no fridae when i was born.

he is going to kick out many products by terms " classic"
mean that product that born before 1877 should said that Barilla is not classic food.
13. 2013-09-29 09:13  
Barilla who??? Never heard of him!
14. 2013-09-29 13:49  
What's the big deal? It's a strategic marketing decision he's made, no different to a multitude of other corporations who have made the same choice not to feature homosexual couples in their ad campaigns (consciously or not). He's spinning a conservative narrative for the brand, in the interests of profit... so what? It's a 136 year old family owned company, what do you expect? It's not like they're launching a homophobic campaign. Get off your high horses people.
15. 2013-09-29 16:12  
Funny. I think he has right to express his preference and it is his own company. I thought gay men are all about expressing their preference mainly sexual, no? - love this race, this shape and don't love this and that. What is wrong with Brilla owner does this? Sometimes I am so annoyed by gay men think they are so politically correct but turn into biggest racist/sexist on earth. What a hypocrite.
16. 2013-09-29 23:23  
Dear #9 #14 and #15

When an individual does "not" take offense at an offensive comment, this does not always indicate that the offense is not valid.

Read the article again with the word "black" inserted - not offensive?

"I would never use a "black" family in our commercial, we are in favor of "white" families. If "black" people disagree, they can always eat pasta of other producers. "Black" people are free to do what they want if they don't bother "white" people."

You could also insert "Muslim", "Jew", "Women", "Elderly" etc.
Not offensive???
17. 2013-09-29 23:51  
guess the ceo's problem is that he should have hidden his stupidity in his small brain not exposing to public media. probably Italy is full of freedom of speech and diverse that any offensive comment towards any group could be posted. Anyway, as a leader of company, didnt he expect that his comment could bring up negative reaction to his firm?
18. 2013-09-30 10:11  
guido barilla, you've lost the support from my immediate and extended family of more than 16 members as of now.
19. 2013-09-30 11:04  
Keyword (here/used): "want".....we DON'T want to have the "right" to be human and treated exactly as others are treated, we DO have the "right" to be human exactly as others are.

The problem I find with these so-called opinions is that not only:
1) is sexuality is not an opinion, but
2) simply being human and being so exactly as the rest in this planet is just exactly that;
3) that is, when it comes to the sexuality of an individual (and all that encompasses said sexuality) is not a matter of questioning - it seems like an "opinion/lifestyle/choice/phase/WANT/what-else-has-been-used-to-label-it" - THUS unconditional. Period.
4) In addition, even if it's about "opinions", we should never internalise other "opinions" simply because they belong to others, even within the same group of sexual commonality, cultural group, ethnicity, etc.... Marriage is marriage, and if one specific group of (specifically) 'believers' don't agree with it, it's because their own "beliefs" become so-called "affected" simply due to their own perspectives that they DO become affected (or 'can be' so), but in truth, it's ALL IN THEIR HEADS. Do choices of one person directly affect another person if it isn't even directly affecting it? NO. It's just illogical.

If you think your marriage (or what-have-you) is affected and your world will disappear simply because you THINK so, and yet your own (let's say) religion is still intact, then the only reason why your own belief (system) [not religion] may come crashing down is because you're/you've been thinking it.
20. 2013-09-30 13:27  
In marketing, he is an idiot. In branding, he has already made it screamingly clear that the pasta brand (not worth mentioning) identifies exclusively with the "old, traditional" family institution. I hope there is no "gay" DNA in his family or he might as well step down as the president and brand ambassador of the company. This should be a subject for "trivia".
Comment edited on 2013-09-30 13:47:51
21. 2013-09-30 14:24  
I don't see anything here worth the alleged "firestorm" and controversy. Yes, he's not exactly hugely supportive of gay people. And? So? He's not exactly roaring out abuse against gay people, either.

In this world, most people seem to be broadly accepting of gay people - but with certain limits, such as being against gay adoption or marriage. That's just the way it is, yet things are changing. To me, he just sounds like a typical, traditional Italian - a country noted for its machismo and testosterone-fuelled identification of masculinity and 'manhood' (which explains that clown, Silvio Berlusconi, a *lot*); his views just seem part of that broad, sweeping generalisation. As such, I wouldn't rush to take offence just yet.

Besides - when was the last time you/we saw, say, Coca Cola, or Apple, featuring clearly-identified gay couples in their branding? Frankly, in business, the vast majority of companies - if not a near absolute figure - stick with the traditional, heterosexual target model. Fine. I'm more concerned about society at large, and political will, than businesses dragging their heels a little on catching up with equality...
22. 2013-09-30 15:24  
Coped from Reuters - Edition US.

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.

I see no reason why Mr Barilla should accept our lifestyle anymore than we accept his. He's entitled to his opinion and frankly in a country as traditional Italy, I'm not surprised he feels as he does. I don't feel that he said anything derogatory or offensive in his statement, he simply said he wouldn't use a gay family in advertising. So, what's the problem. Anyway, Barilla pasta is not that great.
23. 2013-09-30 21:58  

"Among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, internalized sexual stigma (also called internalized homophobia) refers to the personal acceptance and endorsement of sexual stigma as part of the individual's value system and self-concept. It is the counterpart to sexual prejudice among heterosexuals (Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 2009)."

The above comments endorsing or trivialising the offensiveness of the statement in the above article, clearly fit the pattern of "internalized homophobia".

For those who may be offended by being challenged about this - don't worry - you are in good company.
According to a study posted on revelandriot.com "Internalized Homophobia is something that virtually all gays have to confront (or have yet to confront) in their lives."

Your response to an article like the one above is a great opportunity to reveal a possible "blind spot" you may have - and consequently, come to a place of greater acceptance.
Comment edited on 2013-09-30 21:59:47
24. 2013-10-01 20:38  
Well it's his company so it's up to him I guess...
25. 2013-10-03 08:53  
No..As a Public Spokesperson he needs to be more aware of the impact of his statements. Accepting ignorance does little to progress society.
Comment #26 was deleted by its author on 2013-10-03 08:56
27. 2013-10-04 01:22  
Well, since he has asked us not to buy his products, I will comply. I generally avoid discriminatory businesses. Italian cooking is overrated anyway, especially in Singapore.
28. 2013-10-04 20:36  
Perhaps he will no longer be the pasta company's president, but the company's pasta president...
Comment #29 was deleted by its author on 2013-10-04 20:41
Comment #30 was deleted by its author on 2013-10-04 20:41
31. 2013-10-04 22:40  
To those who have "never heard of Barilla" — well, NOW you have ! It's one of Europe's leading (and most expensive) Italian pasta brands. No better than any old pasta, mind. So — no problem boycotting them. Not that it will make a difference to them.
32. 2013-10-04 22:43  
WASA knäckebröd (thin Swedish crisp bread) belongs to the same group.

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