As stories of Russian oppression of non-profits (many that serve the LGBT community) and laws that promote transphobia/homophobia by outlawing the discussion of “trans or homosexual propoganda” are seeing mass media attention, people are looking for ways to reach out and make a difference. There are only a few ways citizens of other nations can make an impact on other countries policies. In this situation, many have decided the best way to pressure the Russian government to rethink their persecution of LGBT persons is by boycotting the Russian economy including Russian made products and the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
Local gay Castro bars Hi Tops and Moby Dick made public statements on their Facebook pages this past Thursday saying that they will no longer be serving Russian made booze including Stolichnaya branded vodka for the foreseeable future.
From Hi Tops on Thursday:
“Sorry Stoli, but we wont be carrying you at Hi Tops anymore. We’re following the advice of Dan Savage and saying goodbye to all our Russian booze, which is our line of Stoli vodkas, to protest the recent horrible legislation and persecution of GLBT people in Russia. We have plenty of other vodkas made elsewhere to quench your thirst.”
and from Moby Dick on Thursday:
“We will be joining the Stoli boycott.”
Both bars have drawn the support and the ire of many of their Facebook followers with their controversial stance. People against the boycott cite Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev’s open letter to the LGBTQ community where he discusses the company’s many partnerships with the community, while at the same time admitting that their products are, in part, made from Russian ingredients. Hi Tops owner Jesse Woodward responded, “Their ingredients still come from Russia. I know it’s not going to make a huge impact to good old mother Russia, but yeah, I feel like it’s a little something that we can do to make a point.”
People supporting Hi Tops and Moby Dick’s boycott of Stoli agree that even if the boycott doesn’t adversely affect Russia’s economy, it has certainly helped to garner wide, mass media attention to the issue.
Russian LGBT rights activist, lawyer, and journalist Nikolai Alekseev responded to the Dan Savage post that Hi Tops referenced calling for the Stoli boycott. “To be honest, I don’t see the point in boycotting the Russian vodka,” Alekseev said. ”It will impact anyone except the companies involved a little bit. The effect will die out very fast, it will not last forever.”
Alekseev said that what folks from other countries should focus on is pressuring their lawmakers into placing Russian legislators who helped enact these laws onto foreign visa black lists so that they are denied entry into other countries, “They will suffer and others will think twice. Nothing else will work!”
People for and against the Stoli boycott feel passionate about their stance. What do you think? If you’re for it, do you think it’s enough? If you’re against it, what do you think people can do to help Russian LGBT?