Dan Savage has asked the LGBT community to boycott the Stolichnaya brand. Arguments about whether Stoli is actually Russian aside, I find this deeply troubling.
A major corporation’s most valuable asset is its brand. Some of the world’s most valuable brands, like Stoli, Absolut, Coca-Cola, American Express, Delta, Budweiser and others, partnered with the LGBT community many decades ago, not only because LGBT folks are loyal to those who are loyal to us, but because people worked very hard from the inside of those organizations to get the ball rolling.
I would know; I, along with others, oversaw the first official Pride sponsorship and involvement for one of the world’s largest corporations, and began the work to build that community involvement into a company commitment. These feats are extremely hard-earned and not easily maintained.
Because of Savage’s apparent disregard for consequences, the LGBT community may be on the verge of endangering commitments of support from not only Stoli, but also many companies globally that have thrown their money, influence and brands behind our cause. This boycott, in many ways, violates the hard-earned trust that the LGBT community has spent several decades building with these brands.
The message being conveyed by these boycotts is that we will turn on these brands swiftly, and without cause. The boycotts demonstrate that the lone voice of a once-relevant radio host—who has devolved into attack politics in a time where we’ve achieved congenial support in the Western world—can paint with broad strokes and dash our hopes that more organizations will join our cause.
If Savage were a man of the times, he’d instead call upon Russian goods manufacturers (perceived or actual) to find creative ways to help the situation, and call upon the global LGBT community to support them and show our thanks with our continued support. Unfortunately, though, I fear that his general lack of sensibility will carry this mistake through to the end.
Without a doubt, we as a community are horrified, concerned and saddened about the situation in Russia. This is, hands-down, the most serious threat the LGBT community has faced since homosexuality was decriminalized in most of the Western world. We need to come together to preserve the safety and dignity of every LGBT person in Russia, and it will take every bit of support we can muster.