Last week in an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama the world famous fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana spoke out about their dislike of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Their comments were not limited to IVF however, they also made claimed that families created with IVF were not as valid as other families. Many were shocked by their comments, which went so far to say, “when you’re born, you have a mother and a father, or at least that’s how it should be”. Ironically enough both Dolce and Gabbana are gay and were once in a relationship together, this raised confusion as to how two gay men could invalidate gay families so thoroughly. But not only are they discrediting gay families but also single parents and infertile parents, anyone other than the traditional nuclear family. It just goes to show that prejudice and ignorance about these issues is not limited to heterosexuals. Possibly the most alarming comment made was called IVF children “synthetic children” saying they were created through “rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” The question raised here is why is that so bad? Why does that invalidate children’s lives if they were created through new scientific advances? Dolce and Gabbana also seem to fail to be aware that not only gay couples use the process of IVF, as many straight couples and non-cis couples do as well.
These comments caused outrage in the celebrity community. First with Elton John and his husband David Furnish, who have two children through IVF. He took to posted on Instagram saying “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic”. And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.” The hashtag was used by many other celebrities such as Ricky Martin, “ur voices R 2powerfull 2B spreading so much h8” and Courtney Love “I want to burn them. I’m just beyond words and emotions. Boycott senseless bigotry! #boycottD&G.”
The story doesn’t end here however, Dolce and Gabbana decided to start a campaign saying “Je Suis D&G.” This was meant to imitate the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan after the Charlie Hebdo attack, which had its problems but nonetheless was a tragic event. Many were shocked by the gall of the company to compare the murder of innocent people to a campaign boycotting their clothing after they made highly offensive comments. They quickly backtracked, posting on a photo on Instagram saying “we talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices”. Their comments in the magazine however did not sound like they were phrasing their own reality, they sounded like explicit shaming of families that use IVF and adoption.
Piers Morgan, an extremely problematic British journalist, spoke out against the boycott saying he agreed with Elton John’s sentiments but “boycotts are just another word for bullying.” There’s a huge difference between using your dollars to hold companies accountable for the problematic and hateful things they do, and bullying. It’s not bullying to show someone how their words are harmful and it’s not bullying to hold people responsible for their words.
There’s one last interesting component to this whole situation. Dolce and Gabbana have a history of racist behavior, yet these occurrences never led to a widespread outcry of boycotting. I’m not saying the comments by D&G aren’t problematic; rather I’m just trying to make you all question something for a minute. Why is it that comments that insulted a white cis gay man led to a boycott, when participating in a racist party and posing with people in blackface didn’t? D&G attended a party a little over a year ago with the theme “Disco Africa”. Blackface was rampant as was “tribal” apparel and feathered headdresses. Domenico Dolce posed with people in blackface and was dressed in a confusing outfit of leopard and feathers. The organizers apologized but it was obvious that they didn’t fully understand why what they did was so racist and culturally appropriative. A second strike on D&G was when they debuted a new line of clothing that featured the mammy caricature. In fact just Googling “blackamoor” will lead to pictures of D&G’s earrings and dresses. Why the company didn’t see a problem in making black women into objects, I will never know. But why didn’t these things cause boycotts? While it’s important to hold D&G accountable for their harmful and frankly ridiculous comments, it’s also important to look at what offenses are being ignored.
Moral of the story? Marginalized folks can still say/do awful problematic things, and holding them accountable for these things is vital (not bullying and not infringing on free speech).
[Featured Image: Dolce and Gabbana logo. Picture Credit – http://www.dolcegabbana.com/]