What we can learn from Elton John's #BoycottDolceGabbana campaign
In a recent interview with the Italian magazine, Panorama, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (of Dolce & Gabbana) made some deeply controversial comments about intrauterine insemination that sparked some serious backlash. In the interview, the two men agreed that “No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” Dolce added, “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be . . . I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from catalog.” To top things off, Gabbana said, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging,”
The Italian designers’ statement was brought to the attention of Elton John, whose sons were in fact born to a surrogate mother. Elton and his husband, David Furnish took major offense to the implication that his family could ever be considered “a fad,” or “supernatural,” or “synthetic,” and took to Instagram to express their frustration.
Paired with a photo of Dolce and Gabbana (who, by the way, used to be romantically involved), Elton stated:
Sharon Stone, Ryan Murphy, Ricky Martin, Courtney Love, and John Barrowman have joined Elton John in his efforts to call Dolce and Gabbana out for their ignorant remarks that concern many people who are not able to conceive children of their own. Not only do the designers’ words hurt the LGBT community, but they hurt many of those who are infertile and unable to have kids without the help of others. In response to their hurtful words, a slew of celebrities took to Twitter to support John’s hashtag and reprimand the designers.
Meanwhile, multiple LGBT rights groups responded to the designers’ comments, offering an education on equality.
“Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation or whether a child has two mums or two dads,” Ruth Hunt, the chief executive of Stonewall told The Guardian. “The important thing is a loving family, whatever it’s make up.”
Even Natalie Brown, the sister of the first baby conceived through IVF, spoke out about the designers’ offensive comments, telling the Mirror: “How can someone be so dumb as to say that just because someone is born a certain way they are synthetic?”
Unfortunately, the designers’ initial response took a turn for the worse, with Gabbana taking aim at Elton John: By Sunday, Gabbana posted a number of outraged comments on Instagram including “you hate the different opinion!! Racist Dictators ❤️freedom to speak.” He also allegedly wrote on John’s Instagram #boycotteltonjohn,” and called the musician “fascist,” but those comments do not appear on John’s page at this moment.
By Sunday evening, however, both designers attempted to explain their comments, perhaps responding to the swelling public outrage.
“I was talking about my personal view, without judging other people’s choices and decisions,” Dolce told The Guardian. “I’m Sicilian and I grew up in a traditional family, made up of a mother, a father and children. I am very well aware of the fact that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known…But in my personal experience, family had a different configuration. That is the place where I learnt the values of love and family.”
“It was never our intention to judge other people’s choices,” added Gabbana. “We do believe in freedom and love. . .We firmly believe in democracy and the fundamental principle of freedom of expression that upholds it.”
We’re glad the designers are rethinking their initial comments, but it’s unclear where their motivation or understanding really rests. It’s also unclear if they’ll be forgiven by those they’ve hurt, those who’ve fought for equality and respect for their family.
If there’s any good that can come out of this, it’s that LBGT and IVF advocates have been given a platform to respond to close-minded intolerance and that support for their choices is robust and powerful.