Saturday, 12 October 2013

Malta Today: No plans to boycott Barilla – MGRM

Malta’s main LGBT rights group will not formally endorse the boycott of Italian pasta brand Barilla.
Monday 30 September 2013 - 11:56 by Raphael Vassallo

Guido Barilla

Malta's main LGBT rights group will not formally endorse the boycott of Italian pasta brand Barilla declared by a coalition of Italy's gay rights movements in reaction to 'insensitive' remarks this week by the company's chairman, Guido Barilla.

Hugely popular in Malta, Barilla products have for decades been marketed as a natural extension of 'traditional family values', using classic slogans such as Dove c' è Barilla, c' è casa (Home is where Barilla is) in conjunction with images depicting a married couple with small children.

Asked by an interviewer whether the company would consider extending this image to also include same-sex couples, Guido Barilla replied: "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."

Asked what effect he thought his attitude would have on gay consumers of pasta, Barilla said: "Well, if they like our pasta and our message, they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say, they will... eat another."

The comment provoked outrage in Italy's gay community, with Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality Italia, pronouncing Barilla's declaration a "provocation".

"Accepting the invitation of Barilla's owner to not eat his pasta, we are launching a boycott campaign against all his products," he added.

But the representatives of Malta's LGBT community will not be joining the initiative, preferring to leave its members to make up their own minds.

Gabi Calleja, chairperson of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, explained that the organisation has to date never resorted to boycotting individual brands or companies.

"We have no intention of declaring any formal boycott. Our members will see the arguments and decide for themselves."

Speaking on a personal level, Calleja added that comments like Barilla's were unhelpful. "We regret statements like that. They represent a kind of attitude that is known to have negative repercussions."

Her views are shared by the speaker of Italy's lower House of Representatives, Laura Boldrini, who kick-started the whole controversy by calling for a review of TV advertising regulations to safeguard the image of women.

"There are some adverts... which, when I see them, I think, 'But would this advert be broadcast in other countries? In the United Kingdom would this advert be broadcast? And the answer is certainly not'." Boldrini said Tuesday. "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."

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