I had been following the controversy over JCPenney hiring Ellen Degeneres as their spokesperson. I was reading some posts from the rabidly anti-gay hate group, One Million Moms (which really only has 40,000 members), and was appalled at their ignorance and intolerance as they demanded that JCPenney fire her because she is gay and therefore a poor role model for their children. But when Bill O'Reilly, of all people, came out on the right side of this argument by equating One Million Moms' demands with the anti-Communist "witch hunts" of the 1950s, it struck me how much the tide of public opinion is turning.
As soon as I finished watching that video, I had a thought: public opinion changes one person at a time, and we have the power to help change it. JCPenney stood by Ellen as their spokesperson. While I'm sure their executives believed that this was the right thing to do, they also made a calculated business decision, and one that will help transform them into the more modern business that they are becoming. That is, they believed that standing up to those who espouse hate and intolerance toward gay people would ultimately bring in more revenue to their business.
In response, I thought: why not show them our support now and help prove them right? So I created the Facebook page "Gay Day Flash Mob at JC Penney -- FLASH YOUR PINK DOLLARS," and 36 hours later, 150 people wearing pink showed up at the event at JCPenney's Manhattan location. The event was picked up by many blogs, including HuffPost Gay Voices and Joe.My.God (who attended the event), as well as by GLAAD, and Rosie O'Donnell even retweeted it to her 350,000 followers.
As we gathered in the Manhattan Mall, I was initially uneasy with the onlooking police officers and security guards. Then one of the guards walked toward me with a woman wearing pink. As they approached, she said, "Are you Greg?" I swallowed hard and said that I was. Then she smiled and thanked me for organizing the event. She introduced me to the general manager of the store (wearing a pink tie). He said that he was thrilled to have us and to let him know if there was anything he could do.
As a sea of people dressed in pink descended the escalator to shop, to "flash our pink dollars," we noticed that all of the JCPenney staff were also wearing pink clothing, and they applauded as we reached their floor. It was a spectacular moment.
We all then went into the store to show our support for a company that was standing up for what is right. Five shirts and an immersion blender later, I can tell you that JCPenney looks great. I was surprised by how modern the store looked and how great some of the brands fit. I hadn't been sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. As we shopped, the entire staff -- and it was "all hands on deck" -- were beyond friendly; they could not have gone more out of their way to be helpful and kind. There was not one exception, not one staff member who was not smiling, making eye contact, and asking if we needed help.
The event was fantastic. And other events have sprung from this one, including a nationwide event on Sunday, which, at last check, had 3,000 "yes" RSVPs on Facebook. I hope that their events went off as well as ours did, and I'm curious to hear about the reaction from the stores in less urban places. I don't kid myself -- of course the manager of the store is going to be happy to see 150 people who don't normally shop there walking into the store with their credit cards held high -- but if this trickles down to every single person working at the store, then the tide of public opinion is definitely changing.