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Dan Savage: Why I'm Boycotting Russian Vodka

1374691438-dumprussianvodka_square_logo-1In an article posted to the Slog blog, Dan Savage addressed the recent spate of human rights abuses against LGBT individuals in Russia, arguing these offenses have become so egregious as to warrant action by members and allies of the LGBT community. Savage echoed the calls of others such as Harvey Fierstein who in a recent op-ed implored, "Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered?" The answer, according to Savage, is an emphatic and resounding, "no." However, assuming something should be done, what's the best course of action? There has been some debate as to how supporters of LGBT rights should go about responding to the violence and hate in Russia. Ruminating on a potential boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia, Savage points to Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play Project, and his rejoinder to the question of an Olympic boycott:

"In 1968, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar refused to play in the Olympics as a protest against the treatment of blacks in America. The same year, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on a medal stand, gloved fists in the air, as a protest against the treatment of blacks in America. History remembers the athletes who showed up.... To send the strongest possible message of support to the LGBT community, we must send our athletes—those who are LGBT, those who are LGBT-supportive, those with LGBT family members or friends. Let them show that champions stand strong with their teammates and training partners. Send our openly LGBT and “publicly pro-gay” athletes and let them compete. Let them win. Show the world that there are elite LGBT athletes who are not afraid to be themselves, on and off the playing field. That the majority of the world’s finest athletes support their LGBT teammates, coaches, and opponents by treating them as equals in competition."

However, irrespective of the Olympics, Savage suggests a boycott of Russian vodka is a more effective and immediate way to stand up to Russia's thugish anti-gay actions, giving momentum to previous calls for a boycott. Savage writes,

Savage"There is something we can do right here, right now, in Seattle and other US cities to show our solidarity with Russian queers and their allies and to help to draw international attention to the persecution of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and straight allies in Putin's increasingly fascistic Russia: DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA.

Here is a list of Russian vodkas currently available in the US: Dovgan, Gold Symphony, Standart, Hrenovuha, Kauffman , Kubanskaya, Moskovskaya, Narodnaya, Pyatizvyozdnaya, Putinka, Rodnik, Ruskova, Russian Standard, Shustov, Starka, Stolnaya, Youri Dolgoruki. The two best known Russian vodkas? Russian Standard and Stolichnaya.

If you drink a Russian Vodka like Stoli, Russian Standard, or any of the other brands listed above, switch to another brand from another country, or even a local brand from a local distillery. Stoli is the iconic Russian Vodka and it's returning to Russian ownership in 2014. Other brands like Russian Standard should also be boycotted. Do not drink Russian vodka. Do not buy Russian vodka. Ask your bartender at your favorite bar—gay or otherwise—to DUMP STOLI and DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA."

Savage also makes sure to point out that, despite what their wikipedia page might suggest, Stoli is in fact a Russian owned company and therefore a worthy target of the boycott.

Some have already begun to join the boycott. The Windy City Times reports that Sidetrack, one of Chicago's biggest gay bars, has stopped serving Stoli and other Russian vodkas. Another bar in Chicago, The Call, has joined the boycott as well.

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  1. Yeah, I can't see this as being an effective boycott.

    But what would Pussy Riot do? They'd head to a russian orthodox church with a can of paint.

    Posted by: Kev C | Jul 25, 2013 1:31:33 PM

  2. Yes, we should be boycotting Russian products. But we need to go after all of the companies that are sponsoring the Sochi Olympics. A good number of them are either US companies or have a substantial presence here, and they would be much more sensitive to negative publicity than a vodka distillery in Russia could possibly be.

    Posted by: jomicur | Jul 25, 2013 1:46:40 PM

  3. Pretty sure, Sidetrack has been boycotting products from Jamaica;

    As to Russia, we may get further by leveraging supportive companies to 1) not buy advertising, etc. 2) having supportive companies, allies, athletes etc. hosting events during the Olympics to draw attention to the plight of LGBT. I would love to see a version of Guerrilla Gay Bars that we see in America in Sochi!

    Posted by: John | Jul 25, 2013 1:53:01 PM

  4. Dan's a beer drinker.

    Posted by: KevInPDX | Jul 25, 2013 3:12:54 PM

  5. Stolichnaya is being a little shady with their statement. They are correct that they do not sell the Stoli vodka sold in Russia. But, they are still owned by a Russian based company (SPI) even though the product we drink here is bottled in Latvia. Currently the distributor is a Scottish company, that loses its distribution rights at the end of this year and SPI will take it back. For the past 20 years or so, Russia has been in a legal battle over the brand. SPI is technically not owned by the Russian government, but the Russian government contests that and says SPI never had legal rights to Stoli to begin with. A court recently sided with the Russian government. If SPI actually had any assets in Russia, you can be assured the government would take them. Putin has been pushing for this in particular. I would imagine SPI, who gets your money, hates Putin. But it's also well known that SPI pays money to the Russian government to try to get them off their backs. So do not think your money doesn't actually make its way there one way or another.

    Posted by: Stolich | Jul 25, 2013 3:17:55 PM

  6. Patric: Yes, but people don't remember Kareem for his boycott, remember him because he was a star in a major sport.

    And yes, people still remember what happened in 1968, and how bad America treated thouse athletes, showing they have all the reason to complain

    Posted by: jjose712 | Jul 25, 2013 3:24:18 PM

  7. Every equality-minded national Olympic committee should design their national uniforms and athlete outfits with an integrated rainbow. Skiers, lugers, bobsledders et al. would look awesome in rainbow race suits. It's a symbol of solidarity the Russian oligarchy couldn't miss.

    Posted by: Marco Luxe | Jul 25, 2013 5:03:36 PM

  8. Every equality-minded national Olympic committee should design their national uniforms and athlete outfits with an integrated rainbow. Skiers, lugers, bobsledders et al. would look awesome in rainbow race suits. It's a symbol of solidarity the Russian oligarchy couldn't miss.

    Posted by: Marco Luxe | Jul 25, 2013 5:03:36 PM

  9. Dan Savage is just another media ho looking for more money for his trophy husband and sex toys...

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jul 25, 2013 6:12:56 PM

  10. Awareness does not necessarily lead to action Jerryless...stop sounding so flakey....

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jul 25, 2013 6:13:47 PM

  11. Watch all the straights start buying vodka to prove their straight or what they think of gays.....bad idea Dan!!

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jul 25, 2013 6:14:57 PM

  12. One problem with Dan's boycott if it is started immediately: bars and U.S. distributors have an inventory of products such as Stoli vodka. It would make sense to announce that any boycott would officially start after a time period has elapsed that would allow the inventory to drop to zero. If the bar owners and distributors know that the demand for a particular product is dropping substantially in a couple of weeks, they are not going to order any more, so Russia would feel the effect immediately.

    I don't think it is appropriate to penalize the owners of gay bars, for example, for not knowing in advance that Russia would pass some idiotic legislation.

    Regardless, while there are a number of ways to handle it, being careful not to hurt gay-friendly businesses is something we should think about.

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 25, 2013 7:55:09 PM

  13. Stoli's CEO, in an open letter, states, ""Stoli’s production process involves both Russia and Latvia. Stoli is made from Russian ingredients (wheat, rye and raw alcohol) blended with pure artesian well water at our historic distillery and bottling facility Latvijas Balzams in Riga, Latvia (formerly part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union)."

    As long as Russia is getting money from the sale of Stoli, be it directly or indirectly, I say "BOYCOTT!"

    Posted by: andy_d | Jul 25, 2013 10:03:28 PM

  14. Contact Comcast/ NBC Universal and demand that they repeatedly expose Human Rights Abuses during their broadcast. NBC has a real opportunity to help our planet evolve.

    Posted by: JKL | Jul 25, 2013 10:19:06 PM

  15. Savage will do anything to keep name in print. He needs to be boycotted. Put your energies into Snowden -- someone with real balls.

    Posted by: Gary | Jul 25, 2013 10:33:07 PM

  16. I drink Vodka and I'm considered an expert on the various brands. Russian Vodka is never mellow, always harsh; I like Swedish, Dutch and British vodka the most

    Posted by: jim | Jul 25, 2013 10:59:36 PM

  17. I was out tonight in Tacoma at the Crown Bar, and specifically ordered their strawberry-and-pepper-vodka drink after ascertaining that the vodka was non-Russian. Easy question to ask.

    Posted by: Dback | Jul 26, 2013 12:29:46 AM

  18. Boycotting russian vodka will kill a company, not a country. WTF is Savage thinking? What if Stoli is PRO-GAY???

    Posted by: Craig in Portland | Jul 26, 2013 12:38:26 AM

  19. We should boycott Steven Seagall movies, since he's a friend of Putin and a hero to the russian people.

    Posted by: Kev C | Jul 26, 2013 12:57:35 AM

  20. Stoli is a Russian company. A Scottish company has distribution rights but those lapse to Russia at the end of this year so yeas boycott away. Stoli is one of Putins pet projects. So hurt the company as much as possible. When you are out make a point to ask if they serve russian vodka and ask them to honor the boycott. Putin will get the message.

    Posted by: Liam | Jul 26, 2013 11:03:48 AM

  21. The big problem is this homophobic campaign is being pushed by the Russian Orthodox Church. Tier priest are always at the anti gay protests and violent outbreaks. Protest outside of Russian Orthodox churches around the world would be a nice touch. As would declaring the Russion Orthodox church a hate group.

    Posted by: Liam | Jul 26, 2013 11:05:41 AM

  22. Boycott Savage. Support someone with real balls -- Snowden.

    Posted by: Gary | Jul 26, 2013 5:14:01 PM

  23. I will buy more Russian vodka. It's very good.

    Posted by: Barney | Aug 21, 2013 6:14:17 PM

  24. Stolichnaya and Russian Standard have COME OUT IN SUPPORT of the LGBT community in Russia! So boycotting such brands is WRONG!! The Russian LGBT community also has come out IN OPPOSITION to your idea of boycotting Russian vodkas as it is pointless and does nothing other than damage their economy and hurt the general population. Think, people!!!!

    Posted by: Kol Altai | Oct 18, 2013 5:24:32 PM

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