Vermont started performing same-sex marriages today, and congrats to the couples doing that. As has been reported everywhere in gay new and old media, the Unilever conglomerate's Vermont-based division Ben & Jerry's switched the name of Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby for the month to celebrate the Vermont same-sex weddings.
Not to rain on the parade (but here I go), Ben and Jerry's gained popularity in the 80's and 90's as a liberal, locally-owned, friendly, all-natural ice cream company. Well, in 2000 they got bought up by London-based Unilever. It's a corporate behemoth that's been accused of everything from exploiting racism to sell skin cream in India to increasing deforestation to illegally dumping mercury. If there was ever a corporation that Ben & Jerry's was supposed to be the response to, it was Unilever.
They also imposed their corporate philosophy of increasing shelf-life and decreasing the cost of production on Ben & Jerry's. The ice cream label once known for its simple and pronounceable ingredients list is selling a flavor called "Hubby Hubby" that's made from this:
Ingredients: Cream, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar, Water, Peanuts, Sugar, Unbleached Wheat Flour, Coconut Oil, Egg Yolks, Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Wheat And Malt Barley Extracts, Corn Oil, Chocolate Liquor, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Milk, Milk Solids, Butter, Natural Flavors, Vanilla Extract, Salt, Guar Gum, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cocoa, Baking Soda, Yeast, Mono And Diglycerides, Soya Lecithin, Niacin, Iron, Carrageenan, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate
Mmmmmm, good, all-natural Vermont ingredients like partially hydrogenated soybean oil make Ben & Jerry's ice cream special.
The ingredients themselves aren't all that scary, although I do have problems with the four liquid sweeteners on the list (Liquid Sugar, Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup) and the cheap oils when there's no need (there's none!) for that in ice cream. The emulsifiers and thickeners and surfactants, like Unbleached Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Guar Gum, Soya Lecithin, and Carrageenan, only make me wonder about how fucked up the texture of the ice cream is now for it to need five chemicals to make it edible again.
What is troublesome about this ingredients list is that it's what Ben & Jerry's used to build their cache, and I'm sure a good deal of their street cred is based on them being a friendly ice cream place instead of just another subsidiary of a food corporation that's more concerned with lowering the cost of human chow instead of a quality product.
Most importantly, I just don't like them trying to co-opt a long struggle by marriage activists in Vermont to pretend like they're a locally owned business (they aren't) or that they're at all concerned with social justice movements while they're selling whitening cream in India. Thank you so much, Unilever, for taking a movement that you wouldn't have given a fuck about 50 years ago and then selling it back to us today. Now that it's chic, now that we've worked hard enough to make it safe for Levi's to put white knots on their mannequins and for American Apparel to sell bizarre T-shirts that say "Legalize Gay" and for every celebrity to show how cool they are by talking about how they support us, Unilever thinks they can use our movement, our struggle, to sell bad ice cream.
OK, I know, we're suppose to be happy that a cool business wants to celebrate same-sex marriage and LGBT rights and stuff, but that's really not the story here. It just seems way to cynical, and makes me way too cynical, to make me feel the gay-friendliness.