The obligations of business

I got into way too much trouble on Facebook just before Christmas. But the one bit I’m going to discuss here concerns a friend who was highly offended at Hallmark because she was looking for a Christmas card for her son and his partner, and the only gay Christmas card they had was lame. I expressed the opinion that “[identity group] Christmas cards” were a silly idea, and she got offended, and all of her girlfriends with her, and I decided it was best to bow out. But I really need to finish the issue somewhere where I don’t feel I’m trampling somebody’s feelings.

First: she found one gay Christmas card. Would we have seen such a thing in the small town we grew up in, in the ’70s? You’ve come a long way, baby.

Second: what constitutes a gay Christmas card?  A card with a picture of two guys on it, or two women? Do the cards that say “To the both of you” have specifically heterosexual imagery? Most of the ones I’ve seen are pretty lame. Do they say “Horny holidays to you and your partner?” For that matter, where are the heterosexual Christmas cards, and what do they say? Yeah, they’re out there, where they keep all the edgy cards. And they’re generally borderline offensive. And I suspect I’ve seen gay cards with them…but not by Hallmark. Indeed, a Web search confirms that there are a bunch of people doing gay cards.

She was looking for something special, and they had cards for all these other relationships, so why not this one? Well, everyone has parents, and more often than not alive. Most people have children, grandchildren, inlaws and bosses (though fewer of all of them, these days). Indeed, this was for an adult child and his mate. But only about 3% of the population is gay. And how many people would get a member of that 3% a card that celebrates or even acknowledges their gayness?  While yes, families are important at Christmas, what we’re celebrating is the birth of Jesus, not somebody’s sexual orientation.

Let’s look at this from the point of view of Hallmark. The gay market is a niche market. Now, yes, there’s money there. But the bigger the company, the more conservatively they’d have to play. What they could make from the gay market could be dwarfed by a concerted protest against gay cards. And a lot of stores wouldn’t stock them. I’m cool with the idea of buyers having cards that look like them, or the people they’re sending to. Hallmark has the Mahogany collection, but that’s a much bigger market. A search at the Hallmark site under “homosexual, Christmas” got 859 hits, but I wouldn’t call any of them “a gay Christmas card”. (I did several similar searches, with “gay” and “holiday”, with similar results).

What bothers me about this discussion was the implication that a company was somehow obligated to serve a particular market, because members of that market thought it was the right thing to do.  Hallmark is obligated to do nothing except make its stockholders happy, no more than I am obligated to send my gay friends gay Christmas cards…because, you know, they are so much more to me than a positive-ground DNA interface.


2 Responses to The obligations of business

  1. James Quick says:

    Ah yes but I expect there is another reason Hall Mark does not issue gay cards. I understand they are now made in China, and the local commissar would no doubt advise at the point of a pistol that Gayness is not tolerated in most of the world and any reference to it is forbidden. After all it is not wise to break Shari law on that point, even here.


  2. jeffreyquick says:

    No Sharia in China, which is officially atheist, and historically not Muslim (they’ve had problems with the few parts which were).

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