Two week ago I told NPR that I didn’t believe that the boycott of Russian vodka would actually end up causing much financial pain to any of the targeted companies, but that the media’s interest in the boycott would serve to push the plight of Russian LGBT people into headlines around the world. And that result, I concluded, made the boycott movement worth the effort. Since the day of that interview, which came five days after Dan Savage jump-started the boycott, I’ve written more than 100 posts about Russia as politicians, newspapers, networks, and major personalities have stepped up to voice support for Russian gays.
Yesterday The Atlantic posted an article titled The Russian Vodka Boycott Is Working, Whether You Like It or Not. The article concludes:
Ultimately, the boycott has informed more people about gay rights in Russia, and it probably hasn’t hurt Stoli too badly, so there’s a net positive. That makes it harder for politicians, companies, and organizations involved with Russia and the 2014 Olympics to keep quiet on the issue. Hopefully that means an increase in international pressure on Putin and Russian lawmakers to make life better for LGBT people, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen. And yes, Putin and Russian lawmakers, not gay vodka boycotters or slacktivists, have the final say on policy. But the very fact that we’re talking about Russian gay rights months before the 2014 Olympics is an achievement.
Activists have been ranting about Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” ban for more than a year, but it took a silly little thing like pouring a few bottles of Stoli into the sewer to get the world’s attention. Don’t underestimate the power of such symbolism.