Can We Stop Talking About Chick-Fil-A Yet? I Guess Not.

Are we all sick of the Chick-Fil-A thing? Good! Let’s talk about it.

I have no idea what happened here. All of a sudden, the world blew up about Chick-Fil-A’s president donating to anti-gay groups and we are supposed to boycott the restaurant. First, yay for standing up for your beliefs! Second, this is not news! There was even an article on the whole thing right here on Persephone Magazine a little over a year ago.

Donations of Chick-Fil-A profits to anti-gay organizations has been a fact of life for some time now. Everyone knows about it. Every few years, people get up in arms about it again, and say that it’s a travesty. Which, okay, it is. But as I have always enjoyed saying, “Yelling really loud doesn’t get much done. And it annoys everyone else.”

I understand that progress will never be made without someone pointing out what’s wrong. But boycotting a fast food place will not make gay marriage legal, it will not help gay couples adopt, and it will not keep kids off the street who are kicked out of their homes after coming out. What it does do, though, is give the fast food place record daily profits as people on the other side of the argument come out in droves to support the Chick-Fil-A’s President’s beliefs. Lines for Chick-Fil-A on August 1, 2012, “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” were so long that they literally wrapped around city blocks.

Eating at Chick-Fil-A does not make you a bigot any more than not eating at Chick-Fil-A makes you some kind of righteous hero. Participation in a moral boycott of Chick-Fil-A is not a baseline of decent human behavior, nor is it a way to change the law or the minds of bigoted people. To be honest, it makes you look kind of silly. Especially since it detracts from the real issue: What are basic human rights and who deserves them? Instead we’re talking about chicken and whether or not we should eat it. It’s a sideshow and an example of armchair advocacy at its worst.

I’m not saying anyone should betray his or her ethics. If this is important to you, by all means, keep up with it. Tell other people about it. Try to get the rules on corporate profit donation changed. Work for a local non-profit that wants to change state law on civil rights. But actually changing the world is going to take a little bit more than not eating chicken. Besides, all the yelling is giving me a headache. Can’t we just get past it and get back to posting pictures of adorable puppies?


 

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amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

18 thoughts on “Can We Stop Talking About Chick-Fil-A Yet? I Guess Not.”

  1. I’m inclined to paraphrase Jon Stewart, “Supporters of gay rights, don’t worry, gay marriage is coming. Its like the drive thru window: you can’t go backwards. And the plus size is, all those people supporting bigotry by buying Chick-fil-A are all gonna get sick and die.”

  2. Do you genuinely believe that yelling doesn’t get anything done? Because in my experience, yelling has gotten women abortion, birth control, gay marriage rights,interracial marriage rights, desegregation – yelling does work when done well.

    Like, I’m sympathetic to your headache, when the sometimes nauseating vigor of self-righteousness on both sides gets too be a bit much, but in the end, I side with those yelling who know they are being attacked. As much as I dislike armchair advocacy as well, it says a lot about our culture when a  national chick fil a day is announced, and people are lining up around the block because they believe that supporting a large and powerful corporation that donates a butt ton of money to conservative lobbyists, whose main goal is to make sure that LGBTQ persons don’t have any access to any sort of legal protection or right, is an economically responsible and morally good choice.

    And while saying that this one corporation alone is the only one that does this is naive, you do get to pick and choose where you vote with your dollars. This type of visibility is not common and I can’t tell you how many of my hardcore southern relatives have been like, oh wait, they support those types of organizations? I dont want to eat there. It’s not advocacy with a capital A, but you know what? A lot of folks don’t live / experience advocacy with a capital A at a level that many of us, be it with familiarity with social justice work / tumblr conversations / etc. are. I can’t in good faith dismiss that.

    Like yelling is annoying. Agreed. But what annoys me more, is the way that this article, and others like it, postures personal consumer choice as separate from the cultural climate we live in. Its not just about chicken, and it saddens me that the discussion has devolved into that. Its about making ethically / morally responsible choices as to knowing how your money gets spent and who it, in the long, often times, well concealed run.

    1. I believe that yelling CAN get things done.  And like you said, yelling works when done WELL.  Here’s the thing, though, this is not yelling done well.  Especially since it’s the same yell every few months or years, and then everybody forgets about it ten minutes later.  While it might say a lot about our nation that we can rally around a boycott of CFA, what it says culturally is that we like a convenient cause.  Your “advocacy with a capital A” description bothers me, because it makes it sound as though people who are not involved in social justice or who have access to certain types of media aren’t able to have a conversation that goes beyond voting with dollars.  It sounds a little bit condescending, though I don’t believe that was your intention.  I don’t want this article to come across as saying that a consumer boycott is bad or that yelling is bad or that making personal decisions is bad.  The point is that we can do better.  We can have a better cultural conversation.  We can do more.  And we should expect that of ourselves and the people around us.

      I do really respect your opinion, especially, and always look forward to learning from you since we often seem to disagree entirely.

      1. I define advocacy with a capital A as a larger form of non-profit, social work, or social justice work. People who are fluent in a certain type of dialogue or language revolving around advocacy and social justice. People who use words like intersectionality and hegemonic.Who are usually college educated. There are entire swaths of people who exists outside of these circles that are not fluent in this particular type of dialogue, and so, voting with dollars has impact, but so do other forms of community work. Voting with dollars, especially at a large, fast food chain that serves relatively inexpensive meals can make an impact, especially one that basically runs the south. If we want to expect more of people, we also simultaneously have to accept that there are other concerned efforts that might not always jive with what or how we expect people to act.

        I agree we can do better – I really do – and the Chic Fil A thing has worn down my last goddamn nerve. But I dont want to discount this effort because its not pretty. I’m willing to give whats happening with this now a bigger pass than say, Kony 2012, because its actually making known the fact that they are anti-gay. I know that we did an article on it, but a lot of people did not know that.

    2. Thank you for saying all the things that were stewing in my head after reading this, and saying them more coherently than I would have been able.

      I am a very fervid believer in voting with my dollars, and if 1 out of every 10 people yelling about boycotting CFA permanently adapts that mindset, then it has been well worth all the annoyance. I don’t think it’s the best way to change the world, but it is one way and an accessible one at that.

    3. I hear ya. Civil, level-headed, inside voice discussion isn’t working. All the crazy people understand is yelling and shouting. I say give ’em a taste of their own medicine. And really, boycotting Chik-fil-A or protesting with a kiss-in is a drop in the bucket compared to what bigots do the farther away we stray from “the good old days.”

  3. I basically agree with the sentiment here, for two reasons: first of all, boycotts of companies like this don’t hurt the CEOs; they just hurt the bottom-rung employees, who probably need a job. Plus CFA does a lot of good in the form of scholarships/grants and other programs that are worthy of support. Realistically, way more of their money goes towards wages and decent community programs than goes to any sort of ‘anti-gay’ organization. For me, it’s one thing to let a company know that I disagree with its stance on an issue, but I also factor in the total ‘human cost’ and who really ends up feeling the sting, so I’m not a fan of boycotts – letters and other actions seem more meaningful to me.

    Second, while I’m not a fan of organizations donating to ANY cause, the truth is that, without corporate sponsorships and donations, most non-profits and charities would not be able to survive. If I truly want to put my money where my mouth is and want the causes that I believe in to receive support, I have to be mature enough to accept that that means there will be causes I don’t believe in that will receive support as well. Again, I can let the organization know my feelings, but at some point I have to understand that every purchase I make, whether it be for electricity or shoes or food, has the potential to support something I have an issue with. So changing my purchase habits cannot and will not ever be enough. If someone wants to boycott CFA, then that’s certainly a valid choice for them to make (but quite frankly, I have no idea why anyone would have been eating there to begin with if this is an issue for them. Nothing has changed in their agenda whatsoever). I do plan to let my opinions on their bigotry be known to them, but that’s all I am willing to do.

    1. It used to be that organizations couldn’t donate to causes at all!  Except for very small amounts to a small subset of defined programs.  (For example, GE could donate money for an engineering scholarship at the University of Michigan, since they were within a 100-mile radius of each other, and better engineers = better off GE.)  Anything else would have been beyond the scope of the corporation’s purpose.  But the law has thrown away the corporate purpose doctrine and corporations can do pretty much anything.  Which I’m sure everyone knew already anyway.

    1. I’m definitely with you on the idea of not supporting organizations like this. I never have actually ate at Chick-Fil-A, but I also never will.

      To the article’s credit, though, I think the point is, does participating in a boycott like this actually make an impact? Financially, the restaurant chain is benefiting, not losing, from the boycott. If we follow the idea of “voting with your dollar,” even though both you and I would never spend our money there, plenty of others who wouldn’t now are out of “support.”

      Ultimately, I think @amandamarieg is trying to encourage us to not just boycott the restaurant, if we want to boycott it. She’s trying to get us to go further. If you already are, then that is exactly what she wishes us to do.

      1. I get that. Boycotting alone is not enough to fight back against such hatred, and I understand the point of this article. I can’t say I really agree with it, but that’s neither here nor there.

        I do respect your opinion, so maybe you can explain how telling people they look silly helps get the point across? Because I’m just not seeing any valid point to it, but I’m honest enough to admit that very well may be the Goddamn Menopause talking.

        1. I will say, I hesitated over the word “silly,” but ultimately decided to put it in.  Because so many people I know have acted silly about this.  If practicing consumer ethics is important to you, you should absolutely do it.  But consumer ethics should not become a popularity contest.  If I had $5 for every facebook status (I need to quit facebook so hard) I saw last week that said, “If you eat at Chick-Fil-A, I never want to speak to you again!” I may have actually had to start paying my student loans back.  There’s nothing silly about doing what you believe in.  There’s nothing silly about practicing what you preach.  There is everything silly about nonstop preaching with no practicing.  Also, I think it’s silly to talk about fried chicken, when what we should be talking about is corporate ethics and civil rights.  It’s a distraction from a larger issue.  I hope that is an adequate response.

          As for the last bit, I have never had the menopause, so I don’t really know how to respond to that.

          1. Knowing you were talking about a ‘fb status status’ type of boycott (like the awfulness that was Kony 2012) makes a huge difference. That’s one thing I absolutely have to agree with. Saying you’re outraged and boycotting for the sake of a social media status is pretentious and annoying and does very little good.

            (For the record, menopause is like PMS on crack – hormonal overload that sneaks up when you least expect it and makes you  furious over something that normally wouldn’t make you blink an eye. And in my case it seems to have obliterated the switch that would have me ask for clarification before going off on a tear. It seems like that’s all I do these days.)

             

        2. I think you’re right that the article could have been a little clearer to the point it was trying to get across. I had to reread it after looking at your comments to think about it again, and it wasn’t until then that I felt like I really got the message.

          To be fair, I could also not have been paying as close attention as I should have the first time I read.

  4. I can’t say I agree with this. First and foremost, I still only have a vague grasp of the situation. This hasn’t gone around the world, so much as it’s a US issue which has had the occasional foray into the international scene. And also? Every little helps. Change begins with small actions. And continuing to support a company that notably goes against points which are quite considerable in current politics doesn’t seem right, if a person would vote against what the company desires. Either way, it appear to be “just chicken” but purchasing that chicken means supporting the beliefs and actions of that company and funding that company’s politics. I don’t see how that can be harmless.

    1. It’s hard for me to remember sometimes that issues which have been discussed to death on this side of the world have not necessarily become a discussion elsewhere.  You’re absolutely right.  Small changes add up to big ones.  You’re also right that this isn’t a “just chicken” issue.  Where a corporation spends its money is a Big Deal, especially here in the US where corporations are people, too.  However, we have to be careful not to let a debate about chicken become the real debate.  We can’t just get angry at Chick-Fil-A every couple years and say we’ve done our part.  Be angry!  Don’t eat chicken!  But don’t think that’s the only change that has to happen. That was the point I was trying to get across.  I appreciate the view from the other side of the pond, though!

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