The fashion community and its celebrity devotees see themselves as free-thinking, liberal-minded individuals, but in fact, artistic types tend to cling to politically correct groupthink. So when one of their number goes against the grain on a particular issue, the others often unite in disproportionate outrage.
In a recent interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, designer icons Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana drew protests from the gay community with their declaration that “the only family is the traditional one.” Children born through artificial insemination or egg donors are “children of chemistry, synthetic children,” said Dolce. “Uteruses for rent, semen chosen from a catalog.” Procreation “must be an act of love.”
“The family is not a fad,” Gabbana told the interviewer. “In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging… Life has its natural course, there are things that must not be changed. And one of these is the family.”
This outspoken defense of the traditional family unit sparked swift disapproval. In an article entitled, “Dolce and Gabbana Launch Tirade Against ‘Nontraditional Families’,” the gay news magazine The Advocate condemned the designers for this “salvo against equality… a rant against so-called nontraditional families.” Of course, the interview comments were neither a tirade nor a rant, but labeling them as such, and as a “salvo against equality,” helped pump up the outrage in its readers.
Things escalated from there. The website LGBT News Italia called for a boycott of D&G. Sir Elton John, who has two children with partner David Furnish, called for one as well on Instagram:
How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic.” And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana”
Other celebs jumped on the bandwagon. Ricky Martin accused the pair of “spreading H8.” Courtney Love tweeted that she was “beyond words and emotions” and planned to burn her D&G collection. Glee creator Ryan Murphy, declared of D&G that “Their clothes are as ugly as their hate.”
That’s all just a bit too harsh. Dolce and Gabbana have the right to express their opinion and others have the right to disagree. But dismissing that opinion as “ugly hate” is nothing but a smear tactic to end debate and to demonize one’s opponent (as Gabbana said of Elton’s comment, “this is the real respect for a different opinion????”).
D&G could have chosen their wording more carefully – the phrase “synthetic children,” for example, was bound to inspire offense in parents who are unable to conceive naturally. And raising children – biological or otherwise – is the real act of love, not procreation. But it isn’t as if the designers are anti-gay or ant-IVF activists. They were simply expressing their personal viewpoint in the course of an interview, and things got blown out of proportion from there.
It’s not the first time that the torches-and-pitchforks crowd has targeted D&G. Back in 2006, Gabbana caused a similar stir by announcing to the Daily Mail that “I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents. A child needs a mother and a father.”
This more recent controversy came on the heels of D&G’s presentation of their fall/winter line at Milan Fashion Week, in which they celebrated pregnancy and motherhood. The show was called “Viva la mamma!” and featured runway models – at least one of which was pregnant –with young children, toddlers, and babies, to the accompaniment of the Spice Girls’ ballad “Mama.” The designers’ unabashed respect for motherhood and their joyful inclusion of children was a refreshing change from the usual dour parades of self-absorbed, hipper-than-thou models.
In response to the boycott threats, Dolce tried to make peace: “I am very well aware of the fact that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known,” he wrote. In his own statement, Gabbana said that “it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices.”
A boycott likely would be short-lived and have little financial impact on the iconoclastic billionaires. Nonetheless, Dolce and Gabbana aren’t prescribing their beliefs for others; they shouldn’t have to be ostracized or demonized for their right to prefer the traditional family unit like the ones they grew up among in heavily Catholic Italy. Surely they and Elton John can agree on the importance of a two-parent household and that the children’s best interests come first.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 3/18/15)