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.