Recently, Kristen M. Hall published a story about a lesbian couple who attended Dollywood. One of them was wearing a shirt with the words “marriage is so gay.” The staff at Dollywood asked her to turn her shirt inside out and she complied without incident. She later filed a complaint with Dollywood, because she felt offended to be asked to turn her shirt inside out.
First, I am going to say that I fully support the movement for marriage equality.
Second, I have to say that I understand why she felt offended to be asked to hide the message on her shirt.
And finally, the meat of this post: She should have been more understanding of her audience.
There is a time and place to espouse the messages we wish to disseminate. Sometimes this is organized protest, sometimes this is posting on our blogs and sometimes it is words we wear on our t-shirts. Whatever the message we want to shout to the world, we must consider when to best do so.
Dollywood may not be the place to wear a shirt with the pro-gay marriage statement. Ok, it’s a great place if you consider that there are a significant number of old-school country music folks there and your goal is offend people. I mean these country diva fans, as a whole, are not generally people we would think would be part of the progressive demographic.
Ms. Odom, the woman wearing the aforementioned T-shirt, complied quietly with the request so as to not disturb the other visitors at Dollywood, several of whom were children. This is intelligent and understanding thinking. A little foresight and she might have considered not wearing a political statement to a theme park that has nothing to do, one way or the other, with the message.
It’s a good message, and one I would recommend be worn on every street in the country, at every political rally, and even to church. These are all appropriate venues for making a socio-political statement. Dollywood is not.
The couple says they wish Dollywood to be more inclusive to the LGBT community. I don’t really understand how not wishing their park to become a site for political issues is being non-inclusive. The park has to consider all its patrons and any politically charged message might disturb some of their patrons and detract from their enjoying the park. That is the job of the staff at Dollywood – to make the park enjoyable to as many of their patrons as possible. It is not their job to support any cause, no matter how important that cause is. Of course, I’d expect Dollywood to enforce the same rule if someone showed up wearing a shirt that said “Marriage = one man + one woman”.
Asking the park to enforce sensitivity training of its employees and make a public statement saying they are inclusive of all families might be going a little bit too far.
Now, I’m not saying Ms. Odom shouldn’t have complained. She felt offended; she should have. Dollywood said they would work with her. The whole thing is really a non-issue in the big picture of things. The media is doing their jobs in blowing it a little out of proportion to make it seem like important news so they can relay the message supporting gay marriage and LGBT rights to a large audience.
How offended should Ms. Odom be? After consideration, she should not be offended, but at the time, she didn’t have time to consider, so her being offended was a reasonable response.
How proud should she be that her message has now been widespread? Very. Honestly, without her heavy handed response, she wouldn’t’ have had reason to make the news at the level she did. Making the news with her message about marriage equality is far more important than whether Dollywood will start a PR campaign about how LGBT friendly they are.
Wearing a marriage equality message to Dollywood reaches a very small audience and not necessarily one that would see the message and contemplate enough to be moved positively by it. Getting a story published in international news outlets with the same message, however, is good PR, even if the incident in question was mostly a non-event. People will be reminded to consider marriage equality and that’s a good thing.
I must say, that I, for one, would never write a story about an unimportant incident just because the story includes an important message. That would be cheating.
Kristen M. Hall’s Article: http://news.yahoo.com/gay-couple-asked-reverse-shirt-dollywood-200120079.html