Oh no, say it ain’t so Dolly!

First off, sorry I’ve been missing in action lately. I was on vacation in Washington D.C., forgive me and get happy because I’m BACK! 

This morning I came upon the news story about Dolly Parton’s Dollywood informing a gay woman named Olivier Odom that in order to gain entry into the theme park she would need  to inside out her shirt, which read “marriage is so gay,”  an obviously pro-gay marriage sentiment.  The shirt was bought at Marriage is So Gay, an organization that promotes equal rights by money donate towards  lobbyists for marriage equality.

According to the Christian Post  Dollywood’s spokesperson , Pete Owens, explained that this incident was a misunderstanding and a matter of a strict dress code policy. He told the advocate that , “Thousands of times a day our front gate hosts are asked to enforce our dress code policy,” and that this instance, like the incident with Odom, don’t ” have anything to do with who the people are or what their belief system is or with anything other than the fact that we try to prevent as best as we can upon entry of the park one of our guests being offended by something someone else is wearing.” Futhermore he explained that Dollywood enforces this  strict dress code policy,  “to preserve” the family atmosphere, detailing that  “proper clothing is required including shirts and shoes (sandals or flip-flops are acceptable). Clothing with offensive words and/or pictures will not be permitted inside the park.”

I have to wonder why Dollywood decided to stand behind the decision to ask Odom to turn her shirt around? Why not admit that this was the action of one man/woman at the gate who might actually have been acting on his/her own prejudice? It seems to me that Dollywood wants it both ways – they want to imply that this was not a political action – and therefore get away with possibly keeping the good will of those who are for and against gay marriage. But the fact remains that despite the dress code spin the  incident and the PR around it seem to imply that  gay marriage can be and was interpreted as “offensive” to Dollywood’s  “family atmosphere.” 

 While I can understand why the people at Dollywood  want to avoid “offending” their “guests,” there are times when we, and by we I mean corporations like Dollywood, need to take a stand for what is right! Dollywood is perfectly happy to take the money off gay patrons on their annual gay days. Do they ask them to change their shirts then? Telling Odom to hide her politics is not only a squelching of her voice – but it is also an affirmation of her politics as offensive to some and therefore unwelcome. No one wants to see Odom attacked for her beliefs nor do we want to see people brawling in a theme park but making her hide her sentiments equates to an interpretation of her beliefs and desire for equal rights as not normal or freakish and sinful. This is unacceptable. Do the people at Dollywood let patrons wear campaign t-shirts during elections?

How about T-shirts like these:

Any one offended?

Do you think the guards at Dollywood’s gate would make patrons remove these shirts? I know – I am being a touch inflammatory because obviously I’ve never even been to Dollywood and I have no idea how they would react to the above t-shirts, but I feel like the underlying nature of this incident points out just how messed up our culture is when it comes to actively working  towards social  justice.  I feel like people would tell me that these t-shirts are jokes – that I take all this too seriously – But if you genuinely analyze the situation the above t-shirts are actually degrading towards a one group or another. Odom’s t-shirt isn’t degrading anyone. It doesn’t say anything hurtful. In fact all it really says is I support gay marriage – and if we were to consider it degrading at all, then we would have to note that the joke plays on years of  using the word “gay” as derogatory slang . This t-shirt is trying to be positive not negative. It says nothing bad or mean and while not everyone will agree with Odom’s view or desire to see gay marriage legalized that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get to feel that way and speak her mind – She is an American, isn’t she?

Boo Dollywood! Poop on you.

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11 responses

  1. If I was Dollywood I woulda said it was for her own protection:

    “We asked her to turn her shirt around because some people who appreciate our “family” atmosphere would be offended (because, of course, gay people aren’t part of any real ‘merican family) and other patrons would probably try to lynch her for being so unfamilyficatous.”

    • Of course the use of the word “gay” as an insult would be considered offensive in most context and I don’t necessarily expect a teller at Dollywood to necessarily understand the irony of the political statement…

  2. It’s really very simple. Parents want to be able to take their children to sheltered environments. Environments, unlike the real world, that are free of sex, violence, cursing, politics, etc. A place where the parents and children can pretend that it really is all sunshine and rainbows.

    Now, I can certainly imagine the teller going about things the wrong way and I can see how it could have been offensive to the couple. But sometimes an inappropriate t-shirt is just an inappropriate t-shirt. It doesn’t have to be a political social justice issue.

    • Really? Simple?
      I guess my question to you is why was this an inappropriate t-shirt? Because gay marriage falls outside what we consider heteronormative behavior? Becasue you or someone else doesn’t agree with gay marriage becasue it’s political? It may be true that parents desire “environments, unlike the real world, that are free of sex, violence, cursing, politics,” these places that you refer to as all “sunshine and rainbows.” But that’s not simple. In fact, that’s a real issue because children that are out of touch with the real world become adults who can’t think analytically. Are those really the children that parents want to raise? Children who we hide the world from? Why not explain things to a child? Teach them. Keeping children in sheltered environments doesn’t make them better – in fact it’s selfish and lazy parenting if you ask me. And while some may not agree with a t-shirt or a politcal issue – the correct way to deal with that issue is to address it not hide it.

      • “I guess my question to you is why was this an inappropriate t-shirt?”

        Because it has both cursing and political sloganeering.

        The shirt in question wouldn’t be allowed in my children’s public school. Maybe you could use that as a guideline.

        ” the correct way to deal with that issue is to address it not hide it.”

        There’s a time and place for “dealing with issues”. The amusement park isn’t on of them.

        It doesn’t matter what you think about parents or politics or how things should be. Much of what you say I happen to agree with. Just accept the fact that others are different and they have certain expectations when they bring their kids to a family friendly safe area. It’s not up to you when, where, and how parents discuss political/social issues with their kids.

      • I agree – “It doesn’t matter what you think about parents or politics or how things should be.” Clearly, “It’s not up to [me or others] when, where, and how parents discuss political/social issues with their kids,” but from a perspective that respects all people and their rights to express themselves, it seems that if parents want to keep their children from the world’s views than the parent should do exactly that – keep them from the world. They shouldn’t force the world to conform to them becasue that limits the right of others. The world is not all “rainbows and and sunshine” and it never will be. People are all different and we need to learn to co-exist in our differences, not tag some differences as unwanted or political and therefore acceptable to squelch.

        Question: When did discussing politics become inappropriate?

  3. “They shouldn’t force the world to conform to them becasue that limits the right of others”

    Clearly you understand that parents want there to be ‘safe-places’ for them to bring their children. But you are also seeming to insist that parents ONLY want safe-places and are demanding everywhere be safe places. It’s not so black and white. Just think of it this way. “Kid friendly safe areas” are a welcomed and much sought after respite from the real world.

    ” The world is not all “rainbows and and sunshine” and it never will be. ”

    I know and that’s why I said it’s nice to “pretend” that it is while having fun at the amusement park. Again, it’s a welcomed respite from the everyday world where sex, drugs, violence, politics, religion, consumerism, etc are bombarded at kids.

    “When did discussing politics become inappropriate?”

    I don’t know but you must consider context. The key aspect here being “family-friendly, kid-safe” environment of an amusement park.

    But (and moving on a bit) discussing politics with other people’s children, in general, is usually something people deem to be out of bounds. Would you want, for example, adults discussing how abortion is murder, how liberals are communists, or how feminists are hateful, (none of which I agree with) etc with your children?

    • I understand your perspective and I get that it’s complicated, but the truth is that the only place you can 100% control the influences affecting your child is your home. The idea of “Safe Place” should mean safe for all not just safe for kids. To be honest – I am not afraid of “adults discussing how abortion is murder, how liberals are communists, or how feminists are hateful” in front of anyone big or small – True, the idea that talking about or representing gay marriage to a child qualifies as creating an “unsafe” space is horrifying to me, but not just becasue I support the idea of gay marriage. It is horrifying to represent ideas and political conversations as unsafe. I think we should teach children to listen to and question all kinds of ideas and perspectives. I think creating a place that is “family-friendly” and “kid-safe” should included encountering opposing ideas – and in fact limiting ideas feels unsafe to me.

      We may have to agree to disagree.

  4. “It is horrifying to represent ideas and political conversations as unsafe”

    Disagreement is fine. And I think this conversation between us actually went pretty well. But let me be clear….By ‘safe’ I don’t mean to imply that anything else is ‘dangerous’. I am only it’s nice to have places where the facade of childhood innocence can be maintained (a silly sentiment, yes, but again I’ll refer back to thinking about it in terms of a welcomed respite).

    I chose the word ‘safe’ because I have noticed ‘safe’ is used on feminists blogs…for example, “a safe place for people to discuss feminist issues”…as in not having to defend your ideals every 5 seconds or having trolls come in a talk nasty, etc. Not because such discussions are ‘dangerous’ or ‘unsafe’ but because they are UNWELCOME. (caps to stress, I am not yelling).

    I don’t see gay marriage as a contentious issue nor do I think children should be overly sheltered. (As an aside, it may be worth noting that I am a liberal, secular, science minded, stay at home dad. I relish ‘kid-friendly’ places but I am also keenly aware of how “family-friendly” is sometimes just code for ‘ultra-religious’ or ‘ultra-conservative’).

    • I think this conversation went well too!

      What I am saying about agreeing to disagree is exactly the point your making here – I don’t think feminists should strive to have “safe” places – it think defending your ideas in prodcutive ways is one of the only ways to work out what you genuinely believe ….

      For example, I have often said the the idea of all-female spaces doesn’t work for me.

  5. Somewhere in this comment thread you said, “When did discussing politics become inappropriate?”

    I, too, wonder about this a lot, especially when stuff like this Dollywood incident happens. Some people contend that politics is “inappropriate” to talk about because it’s such an emotionally-charged issue for people, but then I have to ask, what exactly is wrong with discussing emotional things? Besides, don’t some people get just as worked up when talking about, say, sports teams or child-rearing as others get when discussing politics?

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