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March 22nd, 2011

Walmart, the G word, and internet activism.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.
— Unknown

Walmart is selling the new It Gets Better book. Just don’t call it gay.

Okay, this is really a story of how a selfish act turned into a firestorm of activism. It has drama, self-righteousness and the hottest new book to hit the stores!

walmart_logoYesterday I was mindlessly wandering around the internet. Don’t judge. I’m a blogger, it’s in the job description. I eventually did a search for any reviews of It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (I posted a fabulous review of it last week and wondered if there were others). The book goes on sale today and if you can, you must buy one for yourself and then for your local school or library.

I noticed Walmart was selling it online. Huh. That’s ironic, I thought. I went to their site and immediately responded to “Be the first to write a review.”

“Like many people who grew up gay and afraid…” I began, stealing a line from my own posting last week. My paragraph ended with a link back to my site for the full review. I pressed “enter,” and up popped a scary red box telling me that my posting contained profanity and I better remove it before all hell breaks loose.

HELLNo one can break hell loose better than Walmart, I figured, so I scanned my review and found nothing objectionable. Well, nothing objectionable to me. I needed another perspective, so I co-opted the psyche of a mid-19th century Amish diary farmer and presto! the word “gay” jumped from the page like the demon-possessed adjective that it is.

I’ll admit I didn’t hesitate to delete the word from the post or get indignant, because here’s the selfish part, my friends: I only wrote a review to plug my blog. That’s one of the marketing secrets of blogging: post on as many other sites as possible, and always sign with your blog address, to attract like-minded readers. Damn me and my insatiable thirst for blogging fame!

After an hour, my Walmart posting was still “waiting review,” and only then did I find the episode vexing. What the crap is taking them so long, I steamed, and hey, why’d I have to delete the word gay, anyway? It screwed up the whole rhythm of the sentence! Oh, and it might be discriminatory.

(As of this writing — and I will keep this updated — my review, minus the G word, has yet to be posted. I have sent e-mails to both the media contact at Walmart regarding this issue, and left feedback on their corporate page. There has been no response.)

This is where everything accelerates and feels like the first half of The Social Network, when their computer explodes with hits and they’re writing code on windows and stuff. I posted a mention of all this on Facebook and my more activist oriented friends pitched a fit. Hmm, I mused, this could be a legitimate concern for people. And bring readers, my God, readers!

I posted another mention of it on the It Gets Better page on Facebook. Then blog guru JoeMyGod contacts me to verify the story, and lickety split, the story is on his site and sixty commentors are furious about it and/or think it’s no big deal and/or being snarky with one another. Plus, Joe has linked back to my blog review on my own site and my traffic is like rush hour. Nirvana!

But that was so, like, yesterday. Today I have a posting about all this on The Bilerico Project, and I’m hoping to lure people like Towleroad and The New Gay into my web of political outrage. Linking to them one sentence ago could help, no?

Gay DefThe fact is, the internet has been dicey when it comes to sorting out what’s dirty and what’s divine for many years now. Scores of people never receive my mailings if I have the words “gay” or “sex” or even “AIDS” in the subject line. And Walmart, well, they may misguidedly believe that, by disallowing the word “gay,” they are preventing people from saying “that’s so gay!” in the product reviews.

I have a problem with that. I like the word. It defines me quite nicely. And I hate to surrender it to homophobic people simply because they might use it against me with an insipid teenage catch phrase.

Oh my. An outburst of activist righteousness has escaped me, and a sincere one at that. I hope you’ll take note of it ” and then send this link to every single person on your e-mail list.

Please be well,
Mark

————————————————————
Magic PillA more substantial debate is raging among AIDS advocates right now ” does PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) help or hurt prevention efforts? PrEP, in layman’s terms, is the strategy of giving a pill regimen to people at risk of contracting HIV ” the regimen appears partially effective, in early studies, in keeping them from becoming HIV infected. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, for one, has gone on record saying “there is no magic pill,” because they fear PrEP will lead to riskier behavior. But other HIV advocates, like many involved in IRMA (International Rectal Microbicide Advocates) believe PrEP is worthy of further investigation. Yes this sounds wonky, but trust me, it has everything to do with the future of HIV prevention and it’s worth your browsing these links and forming your own opinion.

aids2012An important AIDS conference has news to share: the 2012 International AIDS Conference (AIDS2012) has launched its web site. Major plans are underway for this conference, the first to return to the United States since the ban was lifted on those with HIV traveling to the United States. Exciting details are leaking about what should be a massive conference, including early plans for the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt ” in its entirety ” to be displayed once again in D.C. during AIDS2012.

Comments

comments

3 Responses to “Walmart, the G word, and internet activism.”

  1. Sue Says:

    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Any response from Walmart?

  2. Brandon Says:

    March 22nd, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Yes, it was a problem with their system and it’s being fixed; it should take 24 hours. Walmart is NOT anti-gay! I happen to do a lot of work with them.
    Well, it was a systemic problem, yes, but they are correcting it because they disallowed the word in the first place. And yes, their reps are very nice and it should be resolved shortly. — Mark

  3. Ravi Says:

    March 22nd, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Mark,

    It’s Ravi Jariwala from Walmart’s media relations team. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. As you mentioned, we’re working to resolve this quickly and should have an update shortly.

    Thanks,
    Ravi

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