Highlights faces backlash for response to question about including LGBTQ families in their magazine
I have fond memories of Highlights magazine from my childhood, so when a form came home with my son from school I jumped at the chance to order it for him. It turns out not much has changed about the magazine since the early 80’s when I remember reading it — including their understanding of what a family actually is.
It’s 2016. People of the same sex can now legally marry in all 50 states. Same sex couples can now adopt children in all 50 states. So when I saw this response from Highlights Magazine to a customer who requested that they start including representation of LGBTQ families in their magazines, I almost fell off my chair.
The backlash was swift, as it should be. Highlights immediately realized that telling a gay couple that they needed to work on figuring out how to include their children in their audience is freaking ridiculous, and immediately started trying to make good.
They’ve also released a statement on their website:
“In the last several days, Highlights for Children has received many comments and questions about representing LGBTQ families in our magazines. In our initial response, our words weren’t reflective of our values, intentions or our position, and we apologize. We want to assure you that we have read every message and are listening carefully.”
This is a good start.
“… Our mission never changes: To help kids become their best selves—curious, creative, confident, and caring. But we are constantly evolving. It may seem to some that we are evolving too slowly.”
Yes. Yes, you are.
“We want to reiterate that we believe all families matter. We know that there are many ways to build a family, and that love is the essential “ingredient.” This conversation has helped us see that we can be more reflective of all kinds of families in our publications. We are committed to doing so as we plan future issues.”
Thank you, Highlights.
This is how you respond when your brand is not inclusive — you listen and evolve. Their first response was laughably offensive. Why? Because it basically said, “we know a certain part of our audience is against gay marriage and we don’t want to lose their money.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing. What they said was, “We will continue to think deeply about inclusion — specifically how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience.” One mother’s comment on the Highlights for Children Facebook page sums the situation up perfectly:
“I am sorry to say that we are so used to not seeing any families like ours in media that Highlights’ omission of LGBT kids and parents had not stood out. But now that I read that you are dragging your feet because some families don’t want to see families like ours, I feel dirty sending you money. You have a choice to make and I hope you will make the right one.
This is a great opportunity for you to educate parents in ways to respond to children’s questions about families different than their own. It is actually quite simple. If a child whose parents aren’t two women looks at a story and says, ‘Hey, this girl has two moms’ the parent says, ‘That’s right, some families have two moms.’ If the child wants to know why two women appear to be life partners, the simplest answer is ‘They love each other.’ If the parent speaking is married, ‘ . . . like me and Daddy’ is a good addition. Children have no problem absorbing this idea, unless they are first trained to think of families different from theirs as “weird” or “wrong.”
I have a more difficult task ahead of me: to share your response with my daughter and ask her if she wants to keep receiving Highlights. It will be her decision. However, I don’t relish her learning that she will have to decide between relinquishing a magazine she loves and supporting inequality and injustice.”
Guess what, Highlights? If people boycott your brand because they’re bigots, that is a sword you have to fall on, as far as the rest of the population of decent, inclusive humans is concerned. You don’t get to have it both ways — either lose my money, or lose theirs. But we’ll all be waiting to see if you actually make good on your promise of inclusion. Because even if it’s just a thirty dollar subscription, I don’t want to support a magazine that’s making a choice not to represent so many families I love.