The problem with gay people and pasta

Posted on September 29, 2013

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I never thought that pasta was a straight-only kind of dish. In fact, I always thought anyone could eat whatever they liked, regardless of sexual orientation. But apparently that’s not the case for one pasta brand.

Barilla, the largest pasta manufacturer in the world, has come under fire for saying it would never use homosexual couples in its adverts. And what’s more, if gay people don’t like it they can eat another brand, said chairman Guido Barilla.

He hasn’t got anything against gay people, he said. Well, that’s good of him. He just wanted to reinforce that the woman has a central role to play in the family. Would that be serving at a table, pandering to a man, perhaps?

Mr Barilla has since apologised for his comments, which probably has something to do with gay rights groups vowing to boycott the pasta company. But that doesn’t make these types of views okay. A ‘normal family’ is not a woman serving her husband and children. That went out of the window quite a few years ago and it’s a damn good thing that it has.

Outdated gender stereotypes are nothing new in advertising. This has only caused a stir because someone pointed it out. There are many other companies that do not feature gay people in their adverts – or anybody other than white, middle-class people, for that matter – but they don’t go and announce it publicly.

In complete contrast to this exclusion of gay people from ‘normal’ families is an advert by NatWest. It’s so subtle you might not even have noticed it. There’s no flamboyance, nothing camp, no local branch rolling out the coloured flags in a gay pride-style ‘everyone’s welcome at our bank’ kind of thing.

It’s simply an advert showing a set of twins. Camera shots flip from one to the other. One says she loves swimming; the other doesn’t. One is superstitious; the other isn’t. One loves her husband Geoff; the other loves her girlfriend Kate. The message: people are different, and that’s okay.

This is the kind of thing that we need. Nothing cringeworthy, no performance. Just completely normal representations of what is normal today, regardless of what certain outdated individuals think. Let’s hope a few more companies start to get the message.

Image from F. Tronchin’s photostream at Flickr.

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