Choosing Our Battles: A Chick-Fil-A Rant

This is an expanded version of a rant that I spontaneously posted on this blog’s Facebook page yesterday.

[Also, snark warning. Haven’t used one of those in a while!]

I’m going to talk about Chick-Fil-A again because I just can’t stop.

I keep hearing arguments that go something like this: “Yes, they donate money to icky crap. Yes, LGBT people and allies are entitled to boycott them. But then why aren’t they boycotting every other company that does unethical crap? Like Apple? Like Nike? Like McDonalds? Like Walmart? HUH?! Hypocrites!”

First of all. I’m sorry, but I can’t boycott every company in the world. Not even the best activist can do that. I can boycott some, though, and that’s exactly what I do. One reason I boycott CFA is because it is easier for CFA to just stop sending millions of dollars to bullshit organizations than it is for Apple and Nike to restructure their entire labor practices. Do they need to do this? Yes, absolutely. But it would take years or decades of public campaigns and government regulations.

Now, I’m not a labor activist or a corporate watchdog by profession. I’m a 21-year-old student who works part-time, writes a little blog part-time, and hopes to become a therapist someday. I need to choose my fucking battles.

And yes, I’m only speaking for myself here. But I think many of us who are speaking out against CFA are in a similar position. I wish we could all be full-time activists. But we can’t. So we choose our battles.

Second, let me be clear. If Apple came out and said, “Guilty as charged!” when asked about their use of child labor, I can guarantee you that the amount of protest would skyrocket. Because the problem with Dan Cathy and CFA isn’t just what they do–it’s how disgustingly, unapologetically shameless they are about it.

Sure, you could argue that opposing gay rights isn’t “as bad” as using child labor (however you managed to determine which units to measure badness in). My response would be that, while time and money are finite resources, care and concern are not. We writers and activists are perfectly capable of caring both about gay rights and child labor, trust me.

Third, there is something fundamentally different between what CFA does and what Apple, Nike, and Walmart do. The difference is this: corporations cut costs. If possible, they cut costs using unethical, shady, and borderline-illegal methods. Sure, there are a few that don’t, but many do.

The fact that this is something we can naturally expect doesn’t make it acceptable, of course. This is why we need that dreaded government regulation everyone keeps waving their hands about. So until governments crack down on the crap that Apple, Nike, and Walmart do, we can reasonably expect it to continue, because that’s the economic system that we’ve designed for ourselves.

But CFA isn’t trying to cut costs. In fact, it’s giving away huge sums of its own money. This is not a business move. This is not an attempt to keep the shareholders happy, because CFA (unlike Apple, Nike, and Walmart) is a privately-owned company with no shareholders.

No. CFA’s donations are motivated solely by its owners’ desire to impose their religious views upon this country. Full stop. That is why we protest.

One last detour to cover another related argument: “But we’ve known about CFA’s stance on gay rights for years! Why now? HMM?” First of all, people who make this argument: I applaud you for your attention to current events, politics, and charitable donations of companies whose products you consume. I, too, have known about CFA’s stance on gay rights for years, which is why I haven’t set foot in there for years. But not everyone can be so well-informed. I read the goddamn news as a hobby.

Second, better late than never. If you’re seriously trying to suggest that people shouldn’t protest against CFA because they should’ve done it earlier, your argument is the biggest failure I have ever seen. People are protesting now because of Dan Cathy’s public statements. People are protesting now because the story went viral and blew up in every media outlet imaginable. People are protesting now because it’s election season. People are protesting now because gay marriage has been in the news these days like never before.

People are protesting now as opposed to years ago for all sorts of social and cultural reasons, and those reasons do not necessarily include that the protesters are Big Hypocrites.

Both of these arguments–“But what about the other companies” and “But why now”–are intellectually dishonest, and they’re attempts to derail the conversation. If you’re trying to argue that we’re not doing enough for our cause, you might want to ask yourself what you are doing for it.

So I’m not going to mince words here. If the best argument you can muster against boycotting/denouncing CFA is YEAH WELL WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER TERRIBAD COMPANIES, then guess what, your argument fails. Because I don’t see you doing anything about any of them at all.

And it really doesn’t surprise me that nobody I have seen making this argument–online or in person–has been someone who particularly cares about gay rights. Don’t care? Fine. I can’t make you. But please, get out of my way.

Oh, and trust me. Someday when I have the time and money, I am absolutely going after as many of those companies as I can. Are you going to help me?

I guess we’ll find out.


Choosing Our Battles: A Chick-Fil-A Rant

9 thoughts on “Choosing Our Battles: A Chick-Fil-A Rant

  1. 1

    As I said on FB, a) some people ARE boycotting those other asshole companies. Also, just because it’s humanly impossible to fight every civil rights battle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight those you can. As I said on FB b) we’re talking about a fucking sandwich here. If you can’t find another eatery over funding hate, you’re both lazy and intellectually dishonest if you pretend that you aren’t taking a position. Boycotting CFA isn’t like going vegan… it shouldn’t cause a major conflict to choose to eat elsewhere. This isn’t boycotting big oil where you have to make major life changes to stop using gas. Go to Wendy’s or McDonald’s or Church’s. A chicken sandwich over my money going to Pray the Gay Away programs? How this is even a question baffles me.

    1. 1.1

      Sorry, I hope you don’t think I ignored your points! I just didn’t want to co-opt them and stick them into my own blog post. So thanks for posting that here again.

  2. 2

    Because clearly if you can’t do everything, then you should just do nothing.

    Although giving up fast food altogether strikes me as a good idea even without the social justice dimension.

    1. 2.1

      And that attitude describes EXACTLY why nothing ever fucking happens in this country. We’re a bunch of perfectionists. Those who do care, anyway. Most just don’t. >.<

  3. 4

    I love your rants! Seen from Europe, this CFA ‘debate’ seems kind of strange. Of course, anyone with an internally consistent belief system will immediately boycott a company that donates money for things that they find deeply wrong. Of course, people who do not find these things deeply wrong will not boycott it.
    What is there to argue about? It appears that there are some strange people who actually secretly like that the company is doing, still go to eat there and then ramble something about ‘free speech’, ‘other companies also do bad things’ or give other logically flawed arguments. In truth, what they do not want to admit is that they do *not* find it deeply wrong if a company donates money against gay rights. Interesting that they cannot admit this. I wonder if they even admit it to themselves.

  4. 5

    Great post. Some people make this argument to live in denial and avoid the real issue at hand – unabashed bigotry and completely unjustified hatred (from self professed Christians, no less). Zineman makes a great point above those who can’t or won’t admit how they really feel – probably bigotry and hatred.

    I also don’t buy Hershey’s because they are arrogant when asked whether their chocolate suppliers are employing children slaves (or any slaves). It appears they don’t even bother to find out, which really gets under my skin when other chocolate companies have made fair trade changes. I have excellent alternatives so I send my money there instead.

    I avoid Walmart, and have no Apple, but you make good points about what is a legitimate (or semi legitimate) business decision, and/or one that is denied (so it would have be proven), versus what is outright foaming-at-the-mouth-sputtering hatred towards individuals who are not forcing Dan Cathy or the Chik Fil A cow or anyone else into gay marriages/relationships. Yours is a practical approach for a modern world.

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