This controversy erupted on Facebook early this week, after a same-sex couple contacted Highlights to ask why their family is not represented in any of the stories in any of the magazines Highlights publishes. Highlights then made a statement to its page, which appears to have been deleted, but screenshots of which are available in abundance online. In the statement Highlights tries to defend itself, saying: "For much of our readership, the topic of same-sex marriage is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject with their children, even the very little ones. We believe that parents know best when their family is ready to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families." When this statement did not meet the standards of those commenting to the Highlights Facebook page, a second one was published to the Highlights website. The final sentences of the second statement read as follows: "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." The conversation has continued on Twitter, and it appears that Highlights will now be actively seeking submissions that represent same-sex parents. As a Catholic mom whose preschooler is obsessed with Highlights High Five, I have a lot of thoughts on this topic:
- The initial statement from Highlights about its readership's inability to discuss same-sex marriage with their children was an absolute cop-out that threw many of their loyal subscribers right under the bus. That second sentence, about parents knowing best, is completely negated by the first sentence, which essentially paints conservative parents as behind-the-times bigots. Thanks to the Church, I know exactly what I want to say to my children about same-sex marriage when I decide it is time for them to learn about it, and until this week, Highlights was a publication that could support that discussion. Now, not so much. It would be nice if Highlights could have responded to their critics without perpetuating the stereotype that people who hold these beliefs are just stupid. It just adds fuel to an ever-growing fire.
- Privately owned companies should not make major business decisions based on comments from Facebook bullies. I don't respect people who post nasty family-unfriendly comments to a family-friendly Facebook page in order to shame an organization into complying with its demands. I also don't respect businesses who allow themselves to be shamed into changing their entire approach overnight by a handful of disgruntled Facebook users, many of whom are not even paying customers. Highlights would have done itself a lot of favors if it had just not responded to the drama at all.
- I don't believe that all people must be represented in all things. There are many publications and other materials for children that do not represent my family's values. I don't go looking to pick fights with those publications, I simply spend my energy and money elsewhere. I would love to see a family praying in church in a mainstream children's magazine, but I don't take to social media to shame magazines into giving that to me. If I really need it, I'll find a Catholic magazine that can provide it.
- I am really tired of conservative families being called bigots. When Scary Mommy picked up this story, it immediately jumped on the bigot bandwagon, saying, "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." Contrary to this statement, which will undoubtedly be embraced by many of Scary Mommy's readers, I am quite a decent person. I can be decent, and still want my children to be protected from messages that contradict their faith when their faith is still in the early stages of its formation. I don't treat people poorly when they're in same-sex relationships, but I also don't think the Church would teach what it does about marriage if it wasn't important for me to believe it and pass it on.
- I am saddened over the loss of materials for children that promote traditional family values. If Highlights caves to their Facebook commenters, my Catholic family will no longer subscribe to High Five, and I imagine many other Christian families will cancel their subscriptions as well. Once Highlights caves, it will be just a matter of time before the pressure is on other publishers, and soon, there won't be any mainstream magazines I can share with my children. Magazines are not the most major thing in the world, but it troubles me that, while America is meant to be a free country, my freedom to raise my children according to my religious beliefs is becoming increasingly relegated to my living room and my parish.
- As a Catholic mom, I will be carefully monitoring all Highlights publications that come to my mailbox over the next 15 months before my subscription runs out. If objectionable content appears during that time, the magazines will be recycled and my children will never see them. After that, we will no longer subscribe to any Highlights publication. It's a shame that Highlights couldn't be left alone to conduct business according to its own moral compass, but it's a bigger shame that it couldn't stand its ground as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A have done in the past.
- Sharing about this controversy on my personal Facebook afforded me a wonderful opportunity to chat privately with a friend about my beliefs. Though we did not come to agree, it was a lovely conversation and I felt truly respected and listened to, and she also said she enjoyed the discussion. I imagine that some people who have only known me casually, or in a professional context, might be shocked to discover that I am "that sort of Catholic" (the Wrong Sort, as described by And Sometimes Tea), but I hope that this realization will prompt less vitriol and more friendly, well-intentioned conversation.