Op-ed: Is Burger King Being Hypocritical With LGBT Marketing?

Yes, the "Proud Whopper" ad was nice, but if Burger King's corporate policies aren't actually LGBT-inclusive, is the company just paying lip service?

BY Parker Marie Molloy

July 09 2014 7:00 AM ET

Burger King made headlines last week across the country when it launched a “Proud Whopper”  ad blitz, with a video that has since been viewed more than 4 million times. Burger King’s LGBT pride, however, does not appear to extend far enough to its employees.

Human Rights Campaign deputy director of employee engagement Beck Bailey took to the HRC blog to point out some truly disappointing facts about Burger King and its track record on LGBT-related employment policies.

“As a transgender person who also works directly with employers to improve their policies and practices of workplace inclusion, I experienced mixed emotions with the Burger King ad,” wrote Bailey. “Burger King has a score of 55 on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) — a score that reflects, among other things, a lack of employment protections on the basis of gender identity as well as a lack of base level health care coverage for transgender employees.”

Bailey goes on to note that other fast food chains, including Yum! brands (including KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silvers, and others) and McDonald’s, have outscored Burger King on the CEI, all including gender identity in their companywide nondiscrimination policies.

Autostraddle editor-in-chief, CEO, and CFO Riese Bernard penned her own op-ed, declaring, “Burger King’s ‘Proud Whopper’ Isn’t Anything for Gays to Be Proud Of.”

“The video made me think of Burger King’s 2008 ‘Whopper Virgin’ campaign, which also used ‘underprivileged’ (by colonialist standards) people to push its product, albeit in a far more exploitative fashion than we’re seeing with this,” wrote Bernard. “The commercial asked rural Romanian farmers, Thai villagers, and residents of Greenland’s icy tundra who’d never had a hamburger before to try a Big Mac and a Whopper and declare a favorite. At the time, Brian Morrissey of Adfreak declared the ads ‘embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world.’”

“Regardless, even the ‘we are all the same inside’ concept itself feels poorly conceived,” Bernard later says. “We shouldn’t have to prove that we’re ‘all the same inside’ in order to obtain equal rights and respect. Instead we should all learn to value that even people who are different from us are worthy of humane treatment. Also, do you really wanna think about what’s inside a Whopper? If one adds fries to that calorically-dense sandwich, one could exceed one’s entire daily allotment of fat and saturated fat in a single sitting while consuming almost nothing of nutritional value!”

So in Burger King’s case, it seems as though the company might not exactly be putting their money where their mouth is in terms of actually having “LGBT pride,” insofar as treating employees with equality and respect is concerned.

On the following pages, let’s see how some other companies who have dipped their toes into marketing directed to LGBT consumers line up.

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