I eat local. I also eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Hanging out at the play place with friends.
Hanging out at the play place with friends.

As has been the case for the past couple of years, the sales numbers for Little Rock-area restaurants have been released, and the local Chick-Fil-A franchises are in the top. This has our local alt-weekly foaming at the mouth pitting people who eat local against those who eat at Chick-Fil-A.

For one thing, as I learned when trying to decide if I, a huge supporter of marriage equality and gay rights, should boycott CFA, our CFAs are locally owned franchises. I don’t personally know the owners, but friends who do have told me that they are not homophobic and do not support anti-equality causes. In fact, they have supported friends’ ministries, like Young Life.

Still, I get the urge to shop local and eat local. I’m a largely vegetarian, farmer’s market shopping foodie. When we go out to eat, our favorites are local places like The Root, South on Main, Bruno’s, Big Orange, Local Lime, The Fold, La Hacienda, and Damgoode Pies. I haven’t eaten at a chain like an Applebee’s or Chili’s or Olive Garden in YEARS. I think eating locally grown, locally made food from locally owned places is absolutely the ideal.

Farmer’s market babies with their local produce.

But as a mom with young kids? I also eat at Chick-Fil-A. Not because my kids only eat nuggets. Nope. I’m raising baby foodies who eat whatever we eat, every single meal. But because there is just no locally-owned equivalent to my usual CFA experience: going at breakfast time, sipping coffee with my mom friends and getting to socialize, while our kids play on a safe, clean, indoor playground. Plus, our local CFA’s always have more than enough high chairs, changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, free placemats, and a really excellent staff that usually helps me to my table with my food and highchair and kid. They have never ever ever looked askance at me and my mom posse dragging along a pack of short people.

In my wildest fantasies, there would be an indoor play place at someplace like Mylo Coffee, and I could eat delicious pastries while chatting with my mama friends and watching my kids play, and not a single hipster with a Macbook Air would give me a dirty look over my kids harshing their quiet coffee shop mellow.

But that doesn’t exist. So I’ll keep taking my kids out to eat hyper-local food for dinner, but I’m also not giving up my occasional mornings at CFA, either.

Boycott Chick-Fil-A?

Everyone I know is talking about Chick-Fil-A. Most of my friends are talking about boycotting, because they’re good people who don’t like it when people hate on gay people. I don’t like it when people hate on gay people, either, but I’m not boycotting. For a bunch of reasons. Because these are a bit long for say, a tweet or Facebook status update, I figured, hey, you can blog about things that aren’t the babies, you know.

First off, I absolutely disagree with Dan Cathy, the COO of Chick-Fil-A. I don’t think marriage needs “defending” from anything, and if anything, I think the loving, egalitarian example found in many gay marriages could do wonders for this institution. I’m hopeful that marriages that can’t default to tired gender roles could teach us all a thing or two about equal partnerships.

My problem is, if I boycotted every company whose executives say things I disagree with and give to causes I disagree with, I’d be unable to eat or shop most anywhere, because most gazillionaire executives happen to be very conservative and give to very conservative causes. As you may have guessed, I am nowhere near conservative. And also, consistency would require me to boycott other companies, like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, for example, whose CEO has given thousands of dollars to one of the most repellent and homophobic politicians around, Rick Santorum. Even the CEO of Whole Foods publicly opposed health care reform, something I very much support. And Target is actively anti-union and has supported anti-gay political candidates, so I’d have to stop shopping there too (seriously, if you feel smug about not shopping at WalMart and continue to shop at Target, get over yourself).

Another issue is: Chick-Fil-A is a franchise. Meaning, when we boycott, we’re mostly hurting local business owners rather than the big bad company. I know there is an argument to be made that they knew what kind of company they were buying into, but I’m not ready to equate owning a franchise with wholehearted support of the COO’s politics.

Thirdly: I’ve yet to hear about Chick-Fil-A actively discriminating in either hiring or service. Are they refusing to let gay folks be the “Eat Mor Chicken” equivalent of burger flippers? Are they refusing to serve waffle fries to gay people? Since I’m not willing to actually boycott every company whose COO says things I disagree with, I will reserve my boycotts for companies that actually do discriminatory things. (Not to mention, if I *were* boycotting CFA, it would probably mostly be because I try not to eat unsustainably/inhumanely raised meat, and CFA’s nuggets certainly don’t fit into my food rules.)

Still, I totally want to reaffirm my support for friends who do choose to boycott. I totally believe in voting with my dollars, and if anything, am being inched toward actually boycotting not by the boycotters, but by the whiny defenses people are making of CFA, as if being criticized or boycotted is just as “bad” as being homophobic. Free speech doesn’t include freedom from criticism or consequences for that speech, and whining about it a la Sarah Palin is just totally repellant to me. It’s like people who think being called a racist is just as bad as oh, actually being racist.

The only thing I ask of my boycotting brothers and sisters is: please stop acting like those of us who aren’t ready to join you are somehow against you or the cause of equality. I know liberal folks gay and straight who are on both sides of the boycott. (Hilariously, one gay friend quipped, “Waffle fries may be too high a price for equality.”) It’s not often I get to feel like a “moderate,” but this is one kerfuffle where I do. I hope you don’t think I’m a traitor to the cause.

Update: this post generated a great conversation on Facebook, where I was reminded that a dear friend was hurt very deeply by a degayification program run by Exodus International, an organization that CFA supports. So I finally have a reason to make me pull the trigger on no longer giving CFA my business: solidarity with my friend. I guess that now, if I get a craving for terrible chicken that causes me to chuck my food rules out the window, I’ll get some spicy chicken at Wendy’s, whose support of foster care adoption is a corporate cause I can get behind (please don’t tell me they oppose letting gay people adopt).