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Undoing the knots

By |2018-01-16T09:47:10-05:00December 31st, 2009|News|

by Jessica Carreras

A photo snapped by a Triangle member causes cups to get pulled from pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s. Photo courtesy of the Triangle Foundation

The Triangle Foundation celebrated a small – but meaningful – victory this month after being notified of anti-gay discrimination in the oddest of places: a disposable cup.
A Triangle member was shocked when, after purchasing a beverage from soft pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s, they were greeted with the phrase “Cookies are for sissies” on the cup. They immediately contacted Triangle and sent them a photo, after which Executive Director Alicia Skillman sent a letter to the national company’s corporate offices in Lancaster, Penn.
“You may believe this is great marketing, but stop and think about the harm you may be causing,” the letter warned.
“That word (sissy) still inflicts great pain today for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the country. As a result of this campaign, people are passing by your store rather than stopping.”
The letter goes on to suggest that such language could be encouraging younger shoppers to use such anti-gay language toward their peers.
Skillman ends the letter with a warning, “Triangle Foundation puts on the largest Pride Celebration in Michigan each year,” she writes. “And guess what? We eat pretzels at that event.”
The letter, sent on Dec. 8, was met with a quick and positive response only three days later from the company. “Our intention is never to offend anyone with our marketing efforts,” Wrote Chief Marking Officer Heather Neary. “We are in the process of removing this piece of packaging from our distribution centers and our stores.”
Recent visits by Triangle staff to local malls, where Auntie Anne’s stores are most often located, found no evidence of the cups still in use.
Triangle lauded the quick response and hoped that the company would “set a standard and others will follow their lead.”
“The community is affected by the decisions that are made by these large corporations or at the executive level,” explained Triangle Fund Development and Communications Director Heidi Lovy. “Corporate responsibility has always been a concern of the Triangle Foundation and we’re really trying to pay more attention to that because we feel that these folks have the power to change hearts and minds. As hokey as that sounds, it’s true. It’s a responsibility.”
One that Auntie Anne’s apparently took very seriously.
And the impact may be bigger than it seems. The company, founded in 1988, has over 1,000 locations in the U.S. and abroad, including Canada, China, England and Ireland. It even has locations in such notoriously anti-gay countries as the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Honduras, where a notable gay activist was murdered just last week.
The pretzel chain’s marketing faux pas is just one of several corporate fumbles that has been lambasted recently. In 2007, Beaner’s Coffee was forced to change their name to Biggby after many complained that “beaner” is a derogatory term against people of Hispanic origin. Currently, the fight rages against Dockers, whose “Wear the Pants” ads in print, radio and on TV have drawn criticism from both women’s and LGBT rights groups. The ad suggests that men need to “put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar” and “answer the call of manhood,” slogans that many find reinforce stereotypes about gender roles.
But while the battle heats up against Dockers, which has yet to withdraw their multi-million-dollar campaign, Triangle is happy with the response from Auntie Anne’s. “We just asked them to be responsible corporate citizens and they responded very quickly,” Lovy said. “We didn’t threaten them with a boycott or e-mail campaign or anything.”
And don’t be surprised if Auntie Anne’s makes a vendor appearance at next year’s Motor City Pride – sans anti-gay slogans. “I don’t recall them being there in the past,” Lovy said, “but we would love to have them there.”

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.