As I’m boiling up some Ditalini to go along with my spinach-lentil spaghetti sauce, I get a quick text message from Miss Pink, out for the day but ever on the lookout for news of the strange, silly, and self-righteous. Apparently Guido Barilla – president of one of the largest pasta companies in the world – was doing an interview with Italy’s Radio 24 in which he was asked to respond to statements made by Laura Boldrini, speaker of Italy’s lower house of Parliament. She had recently proposed to put an end to the portrayal of women in Italian advertisements as the de facto family cook and servant:
An advert in which the children and father are all sitting down and the mother is serving at the table cannot be accepted as normal.”
Barilla rejected her argument, citing “traditional family values”, eventually moving to the topic of homosexuality, ultimately finishing off his ruminations by going on record saying that he would never use images of same-sex couples in his advertising.
“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company,” he told Italian radio on Wednesday evening. “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.”
I was immediately reminded of the Simpson’s episode where Milhouse’s father loses his job at the cracker company after Luann left him.
He also said during the interview that while he has respect for same-sex couples and their right to marry, he has no respect for their adopting children “ … because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.” … much in the same way all adoption works, if I recall correctly. Add to this the fact that there is absolutely no data to support the notion that same-sex adoption presents any kind of harm to the child, I can’t really begin to see his point about this entire line of thinking.
Neither can a lot of other people, apparently. The incident has sparked anger among members of the Italian Parliament who have been trying to get legislation enacted to protect the LGBT community against hate crimes, as well as a public initiative by gay rights advocates to boycott of all Barilla products along with all of its associated brands. Both of these factors and forced Guido to offer up a non-apology “clarification”, in which he simply reiterated his respect for homosexuals and “traditional” family, but in the end accomplishing nothing.
I’m not sure why he even broached this topic at all, considering the fact that he’s not a politician but head of a pasta company. Why he would express support for homosexuals in the general case and then snub them in this particular context just seems downright silly, if only from a business perspective. He didn’t have to say anything. Although, he did add this option for those who may disagree with him:
“…if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.”
Well … if you insist, I guess. I mean, I’m not gay myself but I’ll go to another company if you’re going to take that kind of attitude. Speaking of which, there are a few brands I’ve found that are very good: DiMartino, for one. Their linguine and spaghetti are both fantastic, with a texture that can’t be beat. (Check out the close-up of the linguine in this shot. Pasta technology at its finest. The surface roughness lets it hold on to sauce like a champ.) It’s a little more expensive, but you know where your money goes at dinnertime. Point is, if Guido’s basically coming right out and telling people to go to another brand if they disagree with him, then by all means I’ll do it; as I said, I have no loyalty to his brand.
I could imagine if I were an Italian citizen and saw firsthand some of the violence and discrimination against the LGBT population, I’d be kind of annoyed at this. It’s not as if he’s in a position to make laws, and he’s certainly not calling for violence or mistreatment, but when influential and popular individuals like him say things like this, it makes moving forward with social equality all the more difficult.
Ultimately, I honestly don’t see what the problem would be to just add a few photos of different family types in their ads and product packaging. Guido Barilla may have grown up in a “traditional” family like myself, but many people didn’t. Some families were mixed religion or mixed race; a lot of my childhood friends’ parents went through divorce when we were in elementary school; some were single parent households from the beginning. Now, families are evolving to encompass and represent a wider reality, with same-sex parents capable of providing just as fulfilling and happy a life to their children as any heterosexual couple. Acknowledging that with a few simple photos would show every family that doesn’t fit the traditional mold that they are just as important and deserving of those same pleasant memories as everyone else.