While LGBT activists in the United States are fighting for marriage equality, members of the Russian LGBT community are fighting for both their basic human rights and their lives. If this is news to you, just look this post on Buzzfeed, ’36 Photos From Russia That Everyone Needs to See’ – the photos are disturbing. What started as a peaceful march turned violent when anti-gay protestors arrived. Events like this have caused journalist Dan Savage to call for a boycott of Stolichnaya (aka Stoli) and all Russian vodkas.
In a call to action on The Stranger, Savage says, “here 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.”
There are two Twitter streams setup to track the boycott, #DUMPSTOLI and #DUMPRUSSIANVODKA and so far, the response has been swift. Savage just posted his boycott announcement last Wednesday, but bars across the country are already on board.
Forbes’ journalist Kathryn Dill reports that bars in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City are participating in the Russian vodka boycott and The Atlantic Wire is reporting that the boycott has gone global. Bars in London, Vancouver and Sydney are also boycotting Stoli and other Russian vodka bans.
Of course, the big question is whether this ban will make a difference in the lives of Russian LGBTs. Alexander Abad-Santos shared his thoughts in his piece for The Atlantic Wire, “True, these viral movements often get branded as "slacktivism," a term that suggests people are not really doing anything to help the cause at hand. But, then again, the vodka ban is not asking for your money — only your attention to the plight of gays in Russia and, perhaps, a moment of thought about whether you want to patronize companies that might be a little too friendly with the Kremlin.”
The vodka boycott isn’t the only Russian boycott movement right now. LGBT groups are calling for a ban of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.
One very famous gay Olympian doesn’t support the call to boycott the Olympics, though. In an interview with The New York Times, diver Greg Louganis said, "Boycotts don’t work. Boycotts hurt the wrong people." Louganis is speaking from personal experience; he missed the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow due to a boycott.
There’s yet another call to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics, this one comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Russia’s handling of the Edward Snowden affair is the reason behind Graham’s call for a boycott. Again, someone chimed in with an anti-boycott viewpoint, this time it came from a colleague, House Speaker John Boehner.
When asked about the proposed boycott at a news conference, Boehner said, “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who've been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can't find a place to call home?”
What do you think – boycott the Olympics or just Russian vodkas?