Not too many people have to go up against 1 million moms all at once. But talk show host Ellen DeGeneres did have to face opposition from a group of the same name after being selected as a new J. C. Penney’s spokeswoman.
DeGeneres’ new position was announced Jan. 25.
According to Reuters, the group One Million Moms was outraged that J. C. Penney was, as they said, “jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon.”
The group tried to tell the company that it would lose customers by hiring DeGeneres, stating on their website that they found it “funny that J. C. Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families.”
But J. C. Penney refused to discriminate against DeGeneres, even with the pressure from One Million Moms. Any other outcome would have been disgraceful. In reality, giving in to One Million Moms would probably have been the move to cost J.C. Penney in clientele.
Yes, the move might have made the moms and some other anti-gay groups happy, but it surely would not have gone over well with any members of DeGeneres’ massive fan base, who have come to love her for what J.C. Penney calls her “fun and vibrant” personality. Reuters notes that the talk show host has “some 9 million followers on Twitter” and that her show averaged more than 3 million viewers from Jan. 16-22.
But really, the decision to stand by DeGeneres is fundamentally about something else anyway. It’s about whether she can do the job and whether she’s the right person for it. These questions were answered affirmatively when DeGeneres was hired by J. C. Penney, and unless evidence comes up to dispute those answers, the job is rightfully hers.
In this situation, sexual orientation is as irrelevant as skin color or political affiliation. To the average, rational person, it is clear that none of these factors has any bearing on how someone would perform as a spokeswoman for J. C. Penney.
But unfortunately, America is not wholly made up of rational people. There is a vein of discrimination in our country’s history that has not yet run dry. Though the country has made some progress, discrimination is sure to be a problem for many years to come, and on many grounds.
Fortunately, though, there are people like DeGeneres, and companies like J. C. Penney, that handle such situations with grace, strength and rationality, setting an example for the rest of us to follow.
J. C. Penney held steadfastly to its decision, not wavering under the pressure that might have caused another company to acquiesce.
DeGeneres held her head high and spoke frankly about the situation on her show, turning to her characteristic humor and yet still making the points that needed to be made.
“Being gay or pro-gay isn’t a bandwagon,” DeGeneres said during a taping of her show. “You don’t get a free ride anywhere. There’s no music. And occasionally we’ll sing ‘We Are Family,’ but that’s about it.”
DeGeneres also said her “haters are [her] motivators.”
That’s just one more reason J. C. Penney made the right choice.