retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Not surprisingly, I got a lot of reaction to a story and commentary posted on Friday about a JC Penney Father's Day ad that features a real-life gay couple, Todd Koch and Cooper Smith, and their children. (Apparently this follows on the heels of a Mother's Day ad that featured a lesbian couple that nobody paid much attention to.)

An organization called One Million Moms (OMM), an outgrowth of the American Family Association, has objected to the ad - accusing it of "promoting sin" - and called for a boycott ... much as it did when JC Penney hired openly gay Ellen DeGeneres to be its spokesperson. (That boycott was, to put it mildly, unsuccessful.)

I commented, in part:

Now, I don't want to be too cynical about this. Sure, it is true that JC Penney has been fighting some marketing and financial headwinds lately, and that a controversy over gays and lesbians in its advertising could serve to a) take people's minds off the other issues, and b) differentiate it from the competition. But those can't be the only reason for these ads.

The thing is, more people are going to notice the gay ads because people are calling for a boycott (which won't work, by the way). So OMM is actually doing JC Penney a favor by getting this story into the news.

It is interesting that OMM, if it can be believed, actually wants JC Penney to be "neutral" in the culture wars ... since it has no intention of being neutral.

I don't want to inflame the culture wars here, but I do have to say that I am not neutral on this issue. I have a sister who is a lesbian, and who is lucky enough to live in a state where she has been granted the right to marry her partner. She's been with this partner for something like a quarter-century ... in my family, except for Mrs. Content Guy and me, it is the romantic relationship with the longest staying power. I'm proud of her, I'm happy for her, and I cannot be neutral when other people want to judge her with language of intolerance.

MNB user Steve Kneepkens wrote:

It is really unfortunate that this is even an issue. This world spends way too much time talking about homosexuality.

From a biblical perspective it is mentioned a mere 12 times ( which is symbolic in itself). While hunger, prayer, the poor, and love are mentioned over 3,000 times.

We are so focused on something that should remain private, and we are losing sight of all the truly important issues that confront our society today.

So – let's throw it out there. 99% of the human race does not run around shouting about who they sleep  with – why do others? – why should I care? So let it go. My goodness.

But here is what I do know; Everything is upside down.  In Isaiah he states that you know the end times are near when good things become bad and bad things become good.

So- we always make an argument based on our personal experience. You support your sister which you should – And GOD bless you for that. But understand that there are people who have principals based on their faith and that is the foundation of their value system. Why can't they speak out as well?

The government and society is clamping down. The patriot act is really scary, the 24oz soda being banned is really scary, our debt is really scary, our removal of religious symbols is really scary, the centralization of power in Washington is really scary, and now shutting out opposition views is really scary.

From another reader:

It is a poor business decision to do something that you know will antagonize potential or current customers.  I am sure that Kohls would be happy to take that business if JCP wants to alienate some of their shoppers.  Companies like JCP should stay "neutral" on controversial issues and stick to business.  They owe that to their stakeholders.

Still another MNB user wrote:

It seems to me that JC Penny is taking sides in the “culture war”.  While I harbor no ill will towards gays I don’t want corporations “pushing” the view that it is “normal” in my face.  LGBT only make up less than 4% of the population.

I'm not sure everyone agrees with that number.

Another MNB user pointed out:

Great article on the JCP “gay” ad.  Thanks for sharing this article, your opinion (which as usual, is right on), and most importantly, your story. 
Companies need to appeal to the LGBT demographic.  It’s vastly underserved and it has over $800B in spending power which is roughly equivalent with the African American community.  Our 1,300 member LGBTA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and ALLY) Business Council at Target HQ launched our first ever Pride assortment this year on and came under attack from bigots/bullies as well.  [It wasn’t easy to get it approved as we knew we’d come under attack but our leadership invested in us and felt it was the right thing to do from a diversity and inclusion stand point even though we knew the consequences].  The assortment sold out on June 6 and we are donating every single dollar of every sale [not just the profits!] which totals $120,000 to the family equality council which is an organization that cares and promotes equality for LGBT families.  I’m excited to see so many companies including Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft, Amazon, JCP, Macy’s, Target, and many more stand for equality for all employees and customers.  Hopefully more companies join the bandwagon and we can wipe out the close mindedness of the One Million Moms [actually 40,000; not 1,000,000]…..

Another MNB user wrote:

Why is it that tolerance is a one way street with Gays? They are trying to force people to accept their lifestyle. Why don’t they tolerate my right to not accept that type of lifestyle? Why don’t they tolerate my right to disagree with them? I don’t try to cram my Christian lifestyle down their throat. I don’t care what they do, but don’t try to force me to accept, or cram that lifestyle down my throat.

I have to be honest here - I don't know what this email means.

I have never met a gay person in my entire life who was intolerant of people who are heterosexual or Christian. Never. Gay people just want acceptance, not converts. And I know some gay people who are a lot more Christian in the way they live their lives than some heterosexual people I know.

From another reader:

You know I really don't care who JCP uses in its advertising, but it kind of plain to see that they are using these people to generate controversy so they get more publicity. I am restating the obvious. The other obvious thing is that many people feel as I do, that your preference is your preference and quite frankly its a private thing, not public. If I don't agree with your preference I still think its your right to choose. I don't think my family needs to be exposed to your choices because you want to gain notoriety, acceptance for your choices or possibly convert my family all to sell a few more SKU's. People like me will just pitch the catalog when it comes to my home, cancel my credit card and not do business with the agenda pushers. Why, because if they have the right, I also have the right of refusal. Keep your mouth shut, run a clean business with value for all people, leave the homo-hetro phobic crap at home, where it belongs. I bet you make more money that way.

One MNB user responded:

I couldn’t agree with you more! I want to really try and keep this short and sweet because I don’t want to get too “punchy” on the issue. So here goes, 1. The attention puts a spotlight on JCP which is probably the opposite of what OMM wants to happen; and 2. I think these groups are out of control, I mean, did they ever stop to think about where people (all kinds, shape and sizes) come from? I saw a statement once that resonated with me so much, (because I am with you on the issue, though it’s my cousin not a sibling) it was something  along the lines of: if you have an issue with gays when are you going to start blaming the straight people who birthed them?

Ignorance I tell you!

From another reader:

One million moms? More like five thousand bigots.

MNB user Dan Bowen wrote:

Good for you re: your support of your sister and the ads. I could not agree more.

From another reader:

I would like to pipe in on this ethical issue by saying JCP has every right to go after customers of all orientations.  They have this right because we live in the USA where they are free to advertise as they see fit and, where consumers are free to make choices based on what we believe retailers stand for.  Personally, my Christian beliefs line up with OMM and I will be less likely to shop at JCP due to these ads, however, I don’t fault them if they believe they need to appeal to people different than I to increase sales.

I also agree that this is just a side show compared to the other risks they are taking at the moment.

Yet another MNB user chimed in:

I just have to get this off my chest. I have nothing against religion…it’s just not for me. I’m more of a naturalist. However, in my study and readings on religion and in particular the bible, I have come to the conclusion that, among other things, one purpose of the bible was to separate Man from nature, and in doing so prohibit some natural behaviors, that a handful of uneducated philosophers (no, they were not oracles of a myth) felt were unbecoming. The non natural Blustering and fulminating  Ranting of these “men of god”, taken as the unquestioned law of man,  have caused misery throughout the last 3,000 years...and it continues.  Live and let live naturally. This could get me into trouble.

Not here.

MNB user Pam Gossard wrote:

OMM needs to relax.  I am a Christian myself and I take God's word very seriously.  However; I absolutely love Ellen Degeneres and I will certainly not boycott JC Penney because she is a spokesperson for them.  What does her sexuality have to do with advertising clothing, grills, bedding, or washers and dryers??  Ellen's heart, her kindness, her charity, is what is important not to mention she is hilarious.  If God has an issue with Ms. DeGeneres, he will take it up with her - it's not our job!!


From still another reader:

I just wanted to send you a quick thank for your response on the JCP issue.

As a Lesbian who has experienced discrimination in the workplace, being forced out of a long term job because of my orientation when a new manager arrived, and who is now fortunate to work for an employer who respects my diverse lifestyle it is always a pleasure to see someone who takes pride in a family member who is gay.  My family has always shown the same support that you give your sister and her partner and it meant a lot to me that you were willing to take a stand in your blog.  I also applaud JCP for their inclusive ads.

And, from another reader:

I appreciated your comments about your sister and her partner today.   I am currently studying to become an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor and hope to complete the ADPA certification exam next month.    This designation, which is only available to those who have already completed another major designation such as CFP, CPA, JD, CFA, etc., will demonstrate evidence that the holder is proficient in advising same-sex couples regarding their financial planning.   It will cover issues such as tax planning, estate planning, account titling, and more for same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples who are not married.   There are currently fewer than 250 advisors in the US who hold this designation, but the numbers are quickly growing.   Living in Iowa (which was the second state in the US to approve same-sex marriage), I believe there will be a growing need for these services 

I would agree.

My feeling about this is simple. I think the JC Penney ad was designed to appeal to - and show commitment to - the LGBT community. That said, I think the folks at JC Penney knew it would stir up controversy garner the company some free publicity, and even distract from some of the competitive and financial issues with which it is dealing. I think the ad was both sincere and calculated.

I'd say that, on balance, JC Penney was successful on all counts.

Finally ... Thank you to the hundreds of you who sent me emails on Friday regarding my daughter's high school graduation and 18th birthday. The outpouring of sentiment was touching, and your own stories made me smile.

And yes, you're right ... her good looks indeed suggest that I married well. And up.

KC's View: