Italian pasta magnate Guido Barilla, whose surname probably sounds vaguely familiar on account of those little blue boxes in your pantry right now, is in hot water himself after he spoke on the “La Zanzara” radio program Sept. 25. Barilla, whose 136-year-old, family-owned company is the number one pasta producer worldwide, stated that he would “never do an advert with a homosexual family.” He added: “If gays don’t like it, they can eat another brand.”
Not one for half-measures, Barilla went on to say that he did not support gay couples’ right to adopt and that the concept of the heterosexual family was “sacred” to him and his company. Although, oddly, he later said he has no objection to same-sex marriage.
The next day Barilla sort of tried to apologize, saying in a statement: “I’m sorry if my comments offended anyone. I only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family.” But apparently two women in a family is one too many?
Alessandro Zan, a gay man and member of Italy’s parliament, called for a Barilla boycott in the pages of the Independent, though he added via Twitter that he had already stopped buying Barilla a long time ago on account of its “very poor quality.” Ouch. Ivan Scalforotto, Zan’s colleague in another party, scoffed at the half-hearted apology and said he, too, would join the boycott effort.
“We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” said Aurelio Mancuso of the gay rights group Equality Italia. #boycottbarilla popped up on Twitter (as well as #boicottbarilla for Italian tweeters) Thursday, and five separate Facebook pages appeared.
Italians are increasingly examining their country’s homophobic attitudes. Studies by the Rome Gay Center and polling group Nisus found that 70 percent of gay Italians felt that families and schools were not accepting of their orientation; fifty-five percent felt they had been discriminated against; and one in three LGBT teens had considered suicide.
A law that would make public discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is winding its way through parliament but is expected to have a difficult time passing the senate. Neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions are legal in Italy. Rome, a city of two and a half million people, has only a handful of gay bars. Even the pope recently criticized the Roman Catholic Church for being “obsessed” with issues like homosexuality and contraception.