Let me just get the main thrust of my opinion across first: The #DumpStoli campaign, headed by writer and rib-nudger Dan Savage, is absolutely inane and–on a far more serious note–dangerous in its message.
This Thursday, the denizens of the ever-privileged West Hollywood gay mecca will be engaging in the most audacious form of slacktivism after one of its councilmembers, John Duran, asked area gay bars to join Micky’s to dump water-filled Stoli bottles down gutters to “raise awareness” regarding Russia’s degrading treatment of its LGBTQ citizens. Already titled as “Down the Drain with Russian Vodka Ceremony,” it is described as a “coming together to ceremoniously pour Russian vodkas” down gutters “in a city known for its progressive stance on social issues.”
“We can’t stand by as a community and watch the street thuggery on TV and the government’s thuggery in the papers without doing something,” Duran said.
Already joining the purging session are bars like The Abbey, Revolver, the Mother Lode, and Eleven.
In Long Beach, The Falcon has already stopped selling the liquor, while multiple bars along the Broadway Corridor are considering doing the same.
The apathetic, liberal dumping of Stoli–literal or metaphorical, given the water-filled bottles–in the belief that it will actually help LGBTQ Russians is so misguided that it is egregious. Ultimately, these businesses are doing the opposite of their intentions by dumping a brand whose parent company SPI has openly supported multiple LGBTQ events worldwide.
Check out, for example, their ahead-of-its-time documentary series about queer America or its support of prides worldwide, from Tel Aviv to Miami. Or take Stoli’s owner, who lives in exile because he opposes Putin and his policies, particularly after the company was split–half to Russia, half to Latvia–following the fall of the Soviet Union. Or take Patrik Gallineaux, the LGBT ambassador for SPI (yes, they have one) and a Russian human rights activist whose career as a queer drag entertainer is largely supported by SPI.
“The Stoli being boycotted [here in the States] is a victim of the same government now causing harm to our LGBT brothers and sisters and that owns and controls the Stoli brand in Russia,” Gallineaux said. “It is wrong, unfair, and pretty horrible that our own community is trying to hurt a company I know better than anyone; a company that does so much for us and is considered an enemy of Russian parliament… How would you feel if you left your country because of bad government, had the government steal your company [while] you and your company continue to support gay rights globally, and then have the same people you have helped want to help punish you for it?”
Even worse is the message this pseudo-protest sends: “We support you but not your heritage, the word ‘Russian’ equates to ‘evil,’ and we looooove a flair for the pointless, banal dramatics.”
Wow. What happened, Dan Savage? What is going on over there, WeHo? Boycotting a brand that has been historically outspoken against the policies of its birthplace’s government that you are also attempting to speak out against? It makes no sense.
Instead of boycotting an innocent brand that has no control over national politics, why not boycott the Winter Olympics soon to be held in Russia (where Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov has stated that the country’s “gay propaganda law” will be enforced during the Games, putting LGBT athletes and tourists at risk of being arrested), which provides tourism and worldwide positive press for the government itself?
The Broadway Bar and the Sweetwater Saloon, both sister bars in the Gayborhood said they will continue to the carry Stoli.
“Stoli doesn’t even come from Russia any longer; its [American, Canadian, and Australian versions are] produced in Latvia,” Miguel Batencourt, a bartender at Broadway Bar, pointed out. “I had quite a few folks trying to boycott vodka in general and all I could do was just shake my head, hold my breath, hoping to pass out by the time they tried to explain to me why they are boycotting it.”
Sweetwater manager Kevin Gobee said that he approached his boss on the matter.
“After everything that I have read, I told my boss that we shouldn’t because the Stoli that we purchase provides no profits to the Russian government,” Gobee said. “However, we agreed that if there is an overwhelming social opinion that we shouldn’t carry it, we will remove it, if and when the time comes… I just hope that our customers do the proper research before boycotting Stoli or our bar for carrying it.”
This frivolous, cheap, and ultimately first-world-problem conversation about vodka drinking shows nothing more than the vacuity of privileged, Westernized gay thinking.
Cheers to the ill-informed–and let’s hope that Stoli doesn’t pour us, Gallineaux, or their support for the community back out onto the street in return.
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