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Is Russian Boycott A Good Idea? Aravosis Says It's Already Working...

Boycotting-russian-vodka
Recent human rights atrocities in Russia, committed against gay citizens, LGBT tourists, and even straight citizens, have prompted heated controversy in recent weeks, even prompting a boycott of Russian products such as vodka. Others have called for a boycott of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. If you've read Towleroad or any LGBT news outlet recently, you're likely familiar with the story already. 

One question that has been repeatedly debated and discussed in our comments section is this: is a boycott of Russian products an effective way to protest the human rights violations taking place in Russia? Well, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog has an answer for you. In short: it's already working.

How can he be sure?

In his piece "Boycotts 101: Why the gay boycott of Russian vodka is already working", Aravosis first seeks to identify the expressed purpose of a boycott in the first place. As he notes, many argue against the boycott because they are convinced that Russian companies (such as the one that produces Stoli) are simply too big. Thus, LGBT people and their allies don't make up a large enough portion of their consumer base to do any damage by pulling their money out. But is the goal of a boycott to put a company out of business? Aravosis argues that it's not necessarily about money--it's about sending a message and creating a specific target for people to rally around. 

"The boycott is a tool – a foil, really – to foment and galvanize public ire in a way that generates publicity and eventually harms the brand of the ultimate target, in this case Brand Russia." 

Russia-vodka-boycott-luluIn other words, the damage to any brand, be it a company or a government, doesn't necessarily have to be monetary. It can instead come from bad publicity, and the subsequent association created in the minds of those who pay attention to the story. Thus, if companies such as Stoli and entities such as the IOC get enough bad press, they will have no choice but try to save face.

And they already have

"This issue has been bubbling up for a few years now, but it hasn’t really gone anywhere, in terms of true widespread international support from the grassroots and the media, until just a week or so ago.  Why?  Because Harvey Fierstein penned a piece in the NYT, Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed assembled 36 killer (literally) photos of gay and trans people in Russia being brutally beaten, and Dan Savage pulled all the strings together into a call for a boycott of Russian vodka.

"That’s when the dams burst, the floodgates opened, and the world suddenly cared – really cared – about the plight of gay and trans people in Russia.  Bars across America, Canada, Australia and Europe started dropping Russian vodka, gay and trans people and our allies across the globe got enraged and engaged, and the international media suddenly found a hot new story that they’re stumbling over each other to report on."

Skyy-vodka-russia-boycottBut what does all of this have to do with Russia as a country? Aravosis argues that, the more LGBT and human rights advocates put pressure on brands that associate with Russia, the more it costs them to maintain their relationship. Not to mention that, once boycotts like this one raise enough awareness and inspire enough indignation, it is possible to channel that energy into positive change.

"The very fact that this issue was ignored for years, and now is a page one story worldwide, is proof that the Stoli boycott 'worked.'  At least 'worked' for Stage 1, galvanizing the public and the media.  Now we have to fight Stage 2 simultaneously, channeling that growing ire towards positive change."

Those wishing to read the full piece can do so HERE.

Do you agree with Aravosis' arguments. Sound off in the comments section below. 

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Comments

  1. Nailed it! It's all PR!

    Posted by: Juan Cruz | Jul 30, 2013 8:39:38 AM


  2. Great read. I agree. Look at Coors back in the early 90s.

    Posted by: mitch | Jul 30, 2013 8:43:06 AM


  3. beautiful. boycott!

    Posted by: RJ Abada OFM | Jul 30, 2013 8:50:07 AM


  4. I am sure it's all because of the foolishness that is Dump Stoli and has nothing at all to do with 4 Westerners being imprisoned under the laws and videos & photos circulating of the violence.

    No no, it is all down to a few American wanna be A-List gays & bloggers boycotting a vodka I doubt they even really knew about before :)

    Posted by: Wolfgang | Jul 30, 2013 8:54:40 AM


  5. "The very fact that this issue was ignored for years, and now is a page one story worldwide"

    Ahh, he thinks gay blogs are "page one." That's so precious.

    Posted by: asdflkjh | Jul 30, 2013 9:11:35 AM


  6. It was a lead story on the CBC this morning with interviews with Masha Gessen and Nikolai Alekseev. It's again in the NYTimes op-eds.

    None of this would have happened without threat of a boycott.

    Posted by: KevinVt | Jul 30, 2013 9:24:46 AM


  7. Well first off the law passed banning public displays of so called gay propaganda was signed last month. That might be why this whole issue is really gaining traction. I know we like to think we can change the world by simply withholding our cash but it takes more than that. You really want to help Russian gay groups, give them money. The bad PR that Russia gets isn't coming from us not buying vodka. Bad PR comes from those brave people fighting for LGBT rights on the ground in Russia who are getting physically beaten by hate groups and police. Saying the boycott is working and citing PR that you yourself put out is pretty ridiculous and so is not drinking or buying Russian vodka because LGBT rights have nothing to do with vodka.

    Posted by: Isaac | Jul 30, 2013 9:32:59 AM


  8. Aravosis is right ISAAC is wrong.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 30, 2013 9:37:42 AM


  9. The CBC? Haha!

    The Frunk Bruni column in the Times is about the Olympics, not the vodka boycott. Also, the Op-Eds are not page one.

    Posted by: asdf | Jul 30, 2013 9:41:51 AM


  10. That is my issue with all the recent focus on Russia. For YEARS they have been slowly and systemically stomping on the rights of their LGBT citizens and looking the other way when they are abused. Now that they have codified their institutional discrimination into law, all of a sudden people look up out of their rabbit holes and see something. I'm sorry - but at this point it is going to take a lot and the IOC couldn't probably care less about what some gays in the USA are saying about the Winter Olympics and Russia probably couldn't care less whether we drink Vodka made in Latvia in conjunction with a US company. And what about the other countries that do this and more?? Sorry - but I think it's too late to jump on a bandwagon that has been circling for years now and will probably make little to no impact.

    Posted by: Tazz602 | Jul 30, 2013 10:27:13 AM


  11. Tazz602, why look backward? You can't change it. The question is what we do now.

    Posted by: Randy | Jul 30, 2013 10:34:39 AM


  12. *sighs*

    I can't wait until John Aravosis finally stops struggling to maintain his significance in the community. For someone who squawked so much in the early 90s about it being time for younger activists to take the reins, he's certainly keeping his stranglehold gripped as tightly as he can.

    Posted by: Marcus | Jul 30, 2013 10:43:48 AM


  13. The discussion in the media started on gay blogs like Towleroad last week, but since then I have seen the story picked up in mainstream pspers (and yes, I've seen it on the front page) and on TV news. A google search this morning brings up the Associated Press amd various local and national newspapers and TV news divisions.

    On Thursday, I went to a straight bar and was asked by the bartender if I wanted Stoli or another premium brand for the same price as a well drink. I said, "No! Nothing Russian. I'll take Absolut."
    I thought at the time that he probably had no idea why, but then imagined him putting it all together when it hit mainstream media the next day.

    I do think this boycott is succeeding in bringing some attention to the human rights abuses in Russia (though the level of brutality and repression has not yet been fully explored in the media).

    Posted by: GregV | Jul 30, 2013 10:59:49 AM


  14. The discussion in the media started on gay blogs like Towleroad last week, but since then I have seen the story picked up in mainstream pspers (and yes, I've seen it on the front page) and on TV news. A google search this morning brings up the Associated Press amd various local and national newspapers and TV news divisions.

    On Thursday, I went to a straight bar and was asked by the bartender if I wanted Stoli or another premium brand for the same price as a well drink. I said, "No! Nothing Russian. I'll take Absolut."
    I thought at the time that he probably had no idea why, but then imagined him putting it all together when it hit mainstream media the next day.

    I do think this boycott is succeeding in bringing some attention to the human rights abuses in Russia (though the level of brutality and repression has not yet been fully explored in the media).

    Posted by: GregV | Jul 30, 2013 10:59:54 AM


  15. Would be great if athletes carried rainbow flags at opening ceremonies. Would wonder if the authorities would arrest them. That would shed even a brighter spotlight

    Posted by: Ben | Jul 30, 2013 11:01:33 AM


  16. Love the idea of the athletes carrying rainbow flags. Doubt they will though. Too bad.

    Posted by: jleo71 | Jul 30, 2013 11:27:20 AM


  17. I just love that no matter what action is taken, big or small, effective or noneffective, there is a bunch of bitches that will second guess every single step. This circumstance in Russia is a very complex one, where social, religious, and political forces have all converged, with no simple means to correct or address the evil set loose.For each one of these laptop genius opinions, that find fault with a boycott or any other means to confront this situation, not one of them has a better idea of what WILL work...but they just rattle on and on, like bitter old housewives convinced that they have the answers, but as of yet, not one of them can articulate it. That might be just fine, if they keep their opinions to themselves, and no one ever has to take them serious, but,they do not keep their silence, and insist on the opposite. To find such glee in sprinkling their self absorbed, self rightous, ill informed opinions everywhere, like manure on a lawn. Such dissension adds nothing to this process. IF there were constructive debates, and options brought forth with these posts, instead of endless snide critique, but that almost never happens. A boycott of Russian goods was never meant to solve the centuries old homophobia, that now is blossoming in Russia, but, it is and has been effective enough to START a constructive approach. So, can't we just accept that for what it is and put our energy and passion in to it, and each new step into this process? The amount of energy devoted to bitching, if focused, with a united force, can make wonderful, and positive things happen.

    Posted by: Booka | Jul 30, 2013 11:37:16 AM


  18. Who cares about this? Perhaps if the gays in Russia weren't so obvious and felt the need to flaunt their effeminacy then maybe the Russian people wouldn't feel the need to pass the anti-gay (anti liberal) legislation to maintain a higher quality of society.

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 30, 2013 12:37:37 PM


  19. Rick...could you make a more uninformed, ignorant comment? I doubt it.

    Posted by: Booka | Jul 30, 2013 1:01:08 PM


  20. Rick, you've become just another irrelevant c*nt with uneducated cracker parents, even though you might have moved out of the South. You prove that you can take the Jesus-worshipping c*nt out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the Jesus-worshipping c*nt.

    Posted by: Artie_in_Lauderdale | Jul 30, 2013 1:48:21 PM


  21. BOOKA nailed it.

    Posted by: Zlick | Jul 30, 2013 2:01:53 PM


  22. Oh Rick. Did some effeminate boi turn you down at the bar? You should just let it go and realize that you're not his type - and from the sound of your comments, you're not anyone's type. Deal with it and move on.

    Posted by: RJP | Jul 30, 2013 3:33:37 PM


  23. Yes.. boycott Russian Vodka!
    Buy Idaho Vodka! hey, Idaho has great potatos and a great Vodka :-) By the way, I am not connected in any way with any product. I don't even drink! Just my Idaho pride and offering a substitute for any bar out there that still needs a replacement for the trashy Stoli and any other Russian vodka.

    Posted by: Gordon | Jul 30, 2013 3:59:52 PM


  24. Yes, wear a rainbow pin and get kicked out of the games after the opening ceremony. Not many takers, I should think.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 30, 2013 4:23:02 PM


  25. Anon, if a rainbow was integrated into the uniform of the entire US Olympic team, I highly doubt anyone would be kicked out. The last thing Russia wants is for the Games to turn into a PA disaster.

    Posted by: MateoM | Jul 30, 2013 7:51:57 PM


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