Off-Target Again…This Time To the Left

Minnesota–based Target Corporation is outraging the conservative Family Research Council and American Family Association  by giving consumers the option of expressing “love,” “pride” and “harmony” on their clothing.    Thems fightin’ words for social conservatives, at least if the love, pride or harmony has to do with gay people.

In association with National Pride Month, t-shirts carrying those messages are now being offered by Target.  In addition, up to $120,000 from sales of t-shirts apparently will go to the Family Equality Council, which supports same-sex families in a variety of ways, including in the political arena.  The Family Equality Council website says “Because of us…the law more often recognizes all the moms and dads who have made the commitment to be parents.”

Context:  In 2008, Target Corporation CEO Gregg Steinhafel stepped in prodigious political poo when he gave $150,000 in corporate money to support Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is anti-gay rights.  For several months, protests, boycotts, stockholder questioning, flash dances, Lady Gaga scoldings, and lame corporate apologies tarnished Target’s valuable brand.  It wasn’t pretty.

I support gay marriage, and criticized Target for using corporate money to support Emmer.  I even engaged in a quixotic little boycott myself.  So you might think I am pleased with Target.

And I am.  Target is finally on the morally defensible side of the issue.

But from a strict brand management standpoint, I don’t understand why Target is a) selling merchandise related to any politically contested issue and b) tying sales proceeds to any group engaged in political advocacy.   I don’t care what the issue is, or whether the issue position is pleasing or displeasing to me.  It’s just plain dumb idea for Target brand managers to put their enormously valuable brand in the middle of damaging political crossfire.

The lesson Target took away from 2008 seems to be “we need to show that Target is a gay-friendly brand.”  Wrong lesson.  The lesson they should have taken away from the 2008 debacle is “we need to keep our valuable brand out of all divisive political issues.”

– Loveland

Anoka Anti-Bullying Effort is Economic Development?

The War on Differentness
Today’s news reminds us that many parents, kids, and teachers in the Anoka County schools continue to oppose policies designed to prevent bullying of LGBT kids, and others. To them, such policies represent “politically correct (PC)” frivolity, or “promoting the gay agenda.”

But this isn’t just about politics or PC gotchas. There are a lot of other pretty solid reasons for supporting such initiatives. Common decency. Constitutional equality. The Golden Rule.

But since those arguments haven’t swayed opponents of anti-gay bullying initiatives yet, here’s another reason that might resonate on the right.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

In the book “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” author Alexandra Robbins makes the case for Quirk Theory.

Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.

Quirk theory suggests that popularity in school is not a key to success and satisfaction in adulthood. Conventional notions of popularity are wrong. What if popularity is not the same thing as social success? What if students who are considered outsiders aren’t really socially inadequate at all? Being an outsider doesn’t necessarily indicate any sort of social failing. We do not view a tuba player as musically challenged if he cannot play the violin. He’s just a different kind of musician. A sprinter is still considered an athlete even if she can’t play basketball. She’s a different kind of athlete. Rather than view the cafeteria fringe as less socially successful than the popular crowd, we could simply accept that they are a different kind of social.

To support her theory, Robbins cites many examples of people who were “cafeteria fringe” in high school – “geeks, loners, punks, floaters, nerds, freaks, dorks, gamers, bandies, art kids, theater geeks, choir kids, Goths, weirdos, indies, scenes, emos, skaters, and various types of racial and other minorities” — but later were a resounding success in the adult world. J.K. Rowling. Bruce Springsteen. Steve Jobs. Tim Gunn. Bill Gates.

How many jobs and exports do you suppose those marginalized cafeteria fringers have created for the cafeteria core dwellers?

As for LGBT students, George Mason University Professor George Florida employs a “Bohemian-Gay Index” to find that the more “gay friendly” a city is, the more economically successful it tends to be.

So, maybe this anti-bullying business is about more than just fluffy PC-ness?

Schools can’t eliminate bullying, but they can do more. Robbins finds that teachers and administratrators aren’t nearly as neutral as they claim to be in the War on Differentness. They enforce social hierarchies by creating institutional mechanisms for celebrating athletics, cheerleading and a few select activities over all others. Teachers and administrators set the social cues by who they choose to befriend, praise or spend time with. And they too often turn blind eyes toward subtle and not-so-subtle cruelty.

So, Anoka anti-bullying champions, keep fighting the good fight. It’s the right thing to do. Besides, the jocks could use some more jobs right now.

– Loveland

The Bully Pulpit, Republican Style

A majority of Americans support:

* Stem cell research (77% support);
* Gay marriage (51% support); and
* Keeping abortion legal in some form (77% support).

So why are Republicans falling all over themselves to severely limit or ban stem cell research, gay marriage and abortion? Here’s why:

The best thing that could happen to the Republican Party would be for their nomination/tent revival process to end as soon as possible. Because the longer the Republicans evangelical arms race drags out and escalates, the more the eventual nominee will look like a preacher instead of a President. That sells in Republican primaries, but not with moderate swing voters in the General Election.

– Loveland

Messaging And The Marriage Ban

One year year from yesterday, Minnesota voters will decide whether to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban thousands of current and future Minnesotans from getting married. If 29 other states are predictive, the odds are the marriage ban will be successful in the land of “Minnesota Nice” as well.

I attended a house party yesterday to raise money and hackles to defeat the amendment. It was at the home of friends who are better spouses and parents than I could ever hope to be. Trust me, self-appointed Family Defenders, my friends are your greatest allies in your mission to strengthen the institution of family, not your enemies. Family Defenders should be begging people like my friends to join the club.

Anyway, a communications pro for a group opposing the marriage ban spoke at the event about how to talk to our friends, family and neighbors about the issue. Based on message research from the Troglodyte 29, she advised not to lead the conversation by arguing about equalizing the financial benefits of marriage. According to the research, the idea that people in a committed relationship should receive equal health and pension benefits regardless of the gender of their partner has not been sufficiently compelling to the heterosexual masses who take such benefits for granted.

So rather than going all HR on your friends, they recommend an American values argument. Equality. Fairness. Justice. Civil rights. The notion that all Americans who love each other should have the freedom to marry.

That seems like it should be an easy argument to sell. After all, I know my patriotic friends have perfect recall of the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance. Given that, there’s a fighting chance they also might remember there are six subsequent words that speak to this issue. “…with liberty and justice for all.” “All,” which the dictionary says means “every,” “all kinds,” “all sorts.”

I feel silly stating the obvious here, but banning any Americans from marrying isn’t exactly consistent with our collective “liberty and justice for all” American value. Sometime in the not too near future, Americans are going to look back on these marriage ban amendments and be embarassed that something like this could happen in America, just as contemporary Americans are embarassed when they look back on Jim Crow laws.

With the polls showing Americans steadily moving toward support of gay marriage, and younger people especially supportive, it is only a matter of time before these embarassingly un-American marriage ban amendments start failing at the ballot box. How cool would it be if the tipping point was in Minnesota in 2012?

– Loveland

Who Let The Sane Guy In?

In the din of mindless sloganeering that marks most hearings at 75 Reverend Martin Luther King Boulevard, you sometimes stumble upon the rare “holy crap, that was actually thoughtful” moments. Like the sighting of an endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, those precious moments must be treasured.

Simon says:

– Loveland