As a gay man, I have a complicated relationship with boycotts. Sometimes, protesting a business is exactly what brings more attention to the business anyway. Remember the right-wingers who defiantly went to Chik-Fil-A specifically to endorse management’s anti-gay stance? And what of conservative groups that boycotted Walt Disney World for decades, objecting to it allowing “Gay Day” to take place there (even though it was not officially sponsored by the company)? Even they eventually gave up, admitting it has no effect.
So I have mixed feelings about a boycott going on in Hollywood right now at the Beverly Hills Hotel (reported in Variety). The iconic hotel, famed for its Polo Lounge restaurant and celebrity-watching opportunities (as well as where Lucy and Ethel like to go on I Love Lucy), is owned by a company based on Brunei, a Muslim country. The sultan of Brunei has recently stated he will apply sharia (strict Islamic) law to companies in his country, including the owner of the hotel. Sharia law doesn’t treat gays or women very well, and so the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups initiated a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel about a month ago.
In some ways, the boycott has been successful, decreasing attendance at the hotel. But from a practical standpoint, what that really means is, valets, waiters, bus boys and bell hops are losing out. American workers. And let’s face it — a lot of them are gay.
Is it likely that boycotting one hotel will force a political change in an island-nation half a world away for a policy that, as of today, has not even gone into effect? What if it is successful and the Beverly Hills Hotel shuts down? Will that benefit anyone? Or what if the Brunei company sells it … say, to the Mormon church? Will you boycott it still? In fact, how much do you know about any of the owners of the hotels you’ve stayed in?
I don’t claim to have an answer. But I think the consequences of a boycott are something everyone should consider in detail before jumping on the bandwagon.