Barilla Pasta Chairman Guido Barilla says gays who don’t like his decision to not feature gay families on Barilla’s advertising should eat a different brand of pasta than his. Barilla took to an Italian radio show to state his opinion, saying “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.” The radio host then asked him how it would affect the company in the eyes of gay consumers, and he replied “Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don’t like it …they can eat another brand of pasta.”
His comments have created shock waves throughout Italy and around the world, with the story flooding social media within minutes of his remarks. Italian activists have called for a boycott of all Barilla products. Before the night was out, Twitter was awash with the hashtag “boicotta-barilla.” Barilla then attempted to soften his remarks by stating he only meant to highlight the crucial role of Italian women in the family.
Earlier last week, Italian parliament member Laura Boldrini said that Italian advertising should be changed to better reflect the contributions women make to society. Italian culture is considered by many to be far from progressive; advertising there reinforces the role of the woman as wife and mother, dutifully serving her family, and doing little else. When questioned whether his ads further stereotypical thinking about women in the home, he replied that Boldrini lacks a fundamental understanding of advertising.
Italy is considered by many to be far behind the United States when it comes to gay rights. Gay unions receive no legal recognition there at all. In speaking about his company’s advertising, Barilla said “We have a slightly different culture. In the interview I simply wished to underline the central role the woman plays within the family. For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family.”
It seems Italy is not where it needs to be in the eyes of the gay community or indeed millions of supporters of gay rights. Gay rights activist Aurelio Mancuso said the Italian gay community “Accepts the invitation of Barilla’s owner to not eat his pasta, we are launching a boycott campaign against all his products.” He also said that Barilla was attempting to be “provocative” on purpose.
After less than 24 hours of social and traditional media outrage, Barilla issued an official apology, saying, “With reference to remarks made yesterday to an Italian radio program, I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity.”
Barilla Pasta has told gays to eat a different brand of pasta. It’s a pretty safe bet the gay community will do just that.
By: Rebecca Savastio