Why is Bob Evans Homophobic?

I know you are probably wondering why I am eating at Bob Evans? Especially when there’s a great Indian place across the street and a Mexican place down the block.

Well, Bob Evans is comfort food. It is somewhere my family went all of the time and somewhere I could feel … safe? I knew exactly what to expect from the prepackaged food. And I wasn’t disappointed except with a really ugly lemon wedge floating in my glass of water as if it had tried to drown itself and failed. Poor thing. I had a really awful day and wanted to feel some sense of comfort.

So Bob Evans has wi-fi which I was happy to use on my phone while I ate. I checked my email, facebooked etc and then I tried to check the stats on a page from my website. Whoa.

“Sonic Wall Block. Site is considered pornography.”

Ahhh …. I’ve been down this road before. Corporations use preset ‘default’ filters to block anti-family sites. Only in the case of LGBTQ sites, they completely screw it up. My site – THIS site – is not pornographic. I run no ads, I rarely curse and and its not particularly adult in terms of sex chat. But it does have the big LESBIAN in the middle of the page name.

When I encounter these situations, I run a few checks.

  1. Does website for Hooters load? Yes.
  2. Does website for at least 3 other LGBT sites NOT named LGBT load? Yes.
  3. Does a to remain unnamed actual porn site load? Yes

So check. Now I’ll contact Bob Evans and complain. This is prejudice because it assumes that the word lesbian is pornographic. Yes, I know the filters were set by someone else but it doesn’t take a corporate diversity genius to realize its an issue to add to the category of “respect our customers.”

Its also ineffective. Would you rather your 15 year old using her phone to browse while you drink your 18th coffee refill take a look at the Hooters website or mine? Would you be okay if the “LGBT” site has adult language, discussions of sex and lots of photos but doesn’t have the “name” BIG GAY WEBSITE?

Of course not. And Bob Evans isn’t really concerned about your child either or they would go to the trouble to set the blocking tools to block content, not words. Lesbian is not a dirty word. It doesn’t represent evil pornography. It simply is a shorthand method to maintain a “family friendly” atmosphere without doing the heavy lifting.

And, by the way, lesbians eat at Bob Evans. I can name a half dozen off the top of my head. Soooo…. maybe we should start tipping based on being considered porn addicts?

So here’s what’s probably going to happen. Someone from Bob Evans will reach out to me and explain all of this that I already know. They MIGHT open my one particular site because I complained. But they won’t change their system because frankly – they don’t really care. One “oh my” from a horrified good Christian beyotche on a Sunday brunch is far more powerful than our entire community.

Bob Evans scored a 15 on the HRC Equality Index. They get those points for including sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. That was their only score. And to be fair, I’ve never experienced discrimination at Bob Evans when I’ve been in full out lesbian mode – you know, with my partner ordering eggs and such.

But … even if Bob Evans opens my site because I complain, they aren’t going to get to the heart of the problem and they aren’t going to challenge the tech-assumption that the word LESBIAN is well, pornographic. Its a stupid, ill-informed, inaccurate assumption. But it sends a signal that they will happily take our dollars without spitting in our food, but not use the L-word.

Rest assured, this is not limited to Bob Evans. Panera does it. Even Facebook does it – it took the intervention of GLAAD to get them to allow me to “name” my blog’s page Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondent. Apparently, they make an exception for “gay” because its also a popular surname. Damn gays and their legitimizing ties. 🙂  But seriously … Facebook is supposed to be homofriendly and yet they simply won’t address this.

I’m sure it has a lot to with money. I’m sure its expensive to reprogram your entire sonic wall/filter system to be effective in preventing access to actual pornography. But note to Bob Evans – I got through just fine to multiple LGBT websites filled with ads for gay dating sites that feature men in skimpy swimsuits KISSING.  Because I knew the URLs. None of those sites are porn either. They are hard hitting news sites that run ads tailored to the LGBT community. And Hooters!

So if you feel inclined, contact Bob Evans by emailand ask them to reevaluate the effectiveness of their “sonic wall” and the real message they are sending to us customers, gay and straight. You can also tweet them @BobEvansFarms

In the meantime, we as a community need to put pressure on the HRC and others to consider this standard practice as an indicator of LGBT cultural competency.  I have dozens of stories of people being blocked and they all involve big companies. The ability to fine tune filters does exist. Its just not going to be a priority until someone draws attention to the issue. And that person shouldn’t have to be the employee — I had several incidents where I went to my IT team to get legitimate access to sites FOR WORK and had to explain. That was so annoying. I would politely send the request with a cc to my boss (who trusted me) and I would still get push back.  The suspicion was unnecessary. My boss was clearly aware of my request.  Duh!

It creates problems. If you are a gay employee and want to look at an appropriate news site JUST LIKE OTHER PEOPLE LOOK AT CNN, are you going to feel comfortable asking for permission?  And if you are already having some qualms about being perceived as gay, are you going to be okay asking for access to a site – even for a work related purpose? NO.

My favorite story is when a friend who is a partner in a lawfirm couldn’t get to my site. He went to IT and they asked him to explain WHY. His response “None of your fucking business.”

He is, after all, a partner. The site was opened.

Blocking our sites reduces access to important information. My blog is filled with critical facts on news, media, politics, cultural and so forth topics. I would think it looks GOOD for Pittsburgh to be home to a site that tackles these topics. Yes, I”m fine that my site might have mature content because I talk about some heavy duty issues. I KNOW THAT. But its not pornography.

And to suggest otherwise is simply offensive.

(Irony – if Bob Evans officials actually take time to investigate, they can’t read this! ha!)


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