Bigotry, Chicken, and Capitalism: Implications of the Chick-Fil-A Controversy on the Politics of Food
Chick-fil-A’s conspicuous homophobia and anti-gay bigotry prompted protests and boycots all over the country this week by LGBT and progressive activists.
On Wednesday the fast food chain also saw record sales as fellow bigots flocked in droves to support the chain’s anti-gay policies during ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.’ By galvanizing both the progressive community and right-wing homophobes to ‘vote their dollar,’ has the controversy opened a Pandora’s box of conscious consumerism and corporate accountability? Here’s hoping!
Regular EDB readers are no strangers to the concept of supporting ethical food. ‘Vote your dollar!’ is a rallying cry for food revolutionaries everywhere: by rewarding ethical growers, shopping non-GMO, or withholding support from pollution-spewing cruelty-ridden factory farms, informed consumers can take direct action towards limiting destructive practices. Most folks who already see food as a vital health, environmental, and ethics issue understand the tremendous power an educated consumer base exerts upon a profit-driven food system.
But for most Chick-fil-A protesters on either side, this is something new! To the average American Joe or Josephine – eating a standard Western diet, with no deeper reflection than whether to add Coke or Dr. Pepper to the value meal – food has finally been cast as what it always is: a fundamentally value-driven part of human life.
Food choices are intrinsically inseparable from politics; from values; from ethics. What we eat always reflects what we value, both as individuals and as members of a specific human society. Complex webs of cultural and political factors shape what foods we have the ability – and the desire – to choose.
The Chick-fil-A debacle, on its surface, represents a minority group’s effort to hold a corporation accountable for obnoxious behavior — followed by the backlash efforts of homophobes to reward it. In this age of US corporate oligarchy, when corporations are ‘people’ allowed to wield enormous power without legal censure for harm done, the LGBT effort towards corporate accountability through consumer action deserves serious respect and support.
But even beyond the obvious human rights issues underlying the Chick-fil-A conflict, there’s something else remarkable going on here that has zero to do with chicken, religion, or sex.
All across the US, people are realizing the power of conscious consumerism.
The documentary Ethos offers an excellent summary of why that’s a big deal:
The way we use money in our society has more influence than anything else. And the way we choose to spend our money can change everything…
No company will continue a practice or product that you the consumer will not buy. It’s vitally important that you understand this, because this gives you ultimate power to change the world you live in…
By choosing to spend your money wisely, you can promote those companies that do business in a socially responsible way. Without saying a word, you will send a message that they simply cannot ignore.
Many Americans are newly exploring the revolutionary idea that maybe – just maybe – the intersection of food choices and personal values can transcend convenience. That maybe what you buy, what you eat, and what you support have implications well beyond anything those anemic adjectives ‘fast and cheap’ can possibly justify.
Like concepts of human rights and equality, if that seed takes root in the public mind its power will be unstoppable.
Image credit: photo courtesy of Judd Mann, Chick-fil-A protestor and human rights advocate.