TOMS Joins Forces with Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Group

UPDATE: In response to public outcry, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has posted this mea culpa to his blog, apologizing for his appearance at a Focus on the Family event and insisting that the company is not a “TOMS giving partner.”

For socially conscious consumers, TOMS Shoes has always seemed like a no-brainer: The company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, touts its commitments to fair wages and good labor conditions, and even has a line of vegan footwear. True, it’s a for-profit, but TOMS frames that as a means for growth and greater impact. And an extra bonus for many feminists who’d rather not induce Morton’s neuroma by cramming their feet into stilettos all day long is that TOMS carries comfortable flats that don’t make you look like a second-grader.

So it induced a collective “huh?” among progressives and feminists when news broke yesterday that TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has partnered with the anti-choice, anti-gay, evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family. Mycoskie recently appeared at a FOTF event where he discussed “faith in action” with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly. Now, Focus On The Family is in the process of becoming a TOMS international distributor in Africa.

Focus on the Family was founded by evangelical Christian “psychologist” James Dobson in 1977. Since then the organization has been a major player in the Christian conservative crusade against gay rights and women’s right to abortion. You may remember Dobson as the guy who said that gay marriage “will destroy the earth,” or who drew a connection between legal abortion and 9/11, saying, “The wages of sin is death.”

Dobson left the organization in 2009, but the group’s philosophy remains the same–anti-gay, anti-choice, in favor of abstinence-only education and traditional gender roles. Essentially, everything feminists oppose. So many are dismayed to learn that the same company handing out shoes to kids in need is also in bed with one of the most odious organizations around.

Thus far, Mycoskie seems to be unfazed by the backlash–Jezebel reported that he’s ignored all comments on his blog expressing disapproval of the partnership. Maybe he’ll take notice once his best customers take their shoe business elsewhere.

 

Comments

  1. okay, i despise focus on the family, but at least they’ll be giving out SHOES and not BIBLES. i used to be part of an evangelical denomination (and now identify as athiest), and i wanted to be a missionary. i remember my aunt asking me a) why i had to go overseas, versus helping right here near detroit, and b) if i was actually going to DO something rather than just go tell everyone about how jesus saves. while i disagree with the foundation of christianity and as a queer myself, i obviously don’t want to associate with those who blatantly criticize my choices. however, i also realize that the answer is not segregating ourselves from those we disagree with. i wouldn’t boycott TOMS because they partnered with a faith-based, anti-gay, anti-feminist organization. it’s impossible to remove oneself from anything and everything that has an anti-feminist/equal rights agenda, and so, we need to be the change we want to see. we solve nothing by boycotting and therefore emphasizing the relationship that the founder of TOMS has chosen to build – we contribute nothing to the world that way. put your TOMS on and think about what we can to do to promote equal rights and a feminist agenda in a positive way, rather than a long list of people to boycott. let our voices be heard as voices of change and peace, not voices of anger or distaste. if he wants to partner with focus on the family, i am going to be grateful that children in africa are getting shoes and going to school. would we be so mad if focus on the family partnered with a group distributing pads for young women? these conservative groups will never change if we don’t open ourselves up to working WITH them. we only widen the gap.

  2. Blake, you should be commended for staying true to yourself and your purpose. Many fall short of this, being too concerned about what others think and what it may do to their business.

  3. TOMS would have lost a ton of support if they had become known as a brand that partners with hate groups. Mycoskie got terrible advice when he was scheduled to speak at Focus on the Family — glad he issued the apology, hope it’s not too late for his brand to recover.

  4. Looks like the TOMS public relations department beat the feminists to the Comments section. There are plenty of organizations TOMS could have partnered with for distribution — groups that honor the value and contributions of women in those countries and do not proselytize or require participation in their faith to receive “free” shoes. Now that we know the real “values” of TOMS, I’ve purchased my last pair. And not sure I can even stand to have the existing pairs in my house. I’m disgusted. I can find comfy stylish shoes somewhere else, and will happily donate extra for childrens’ shoes that won’t be delivered with a serving of hate.

  5. Sara Burke says:

    “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”- James 2:8 .Are you not doing exactly what you are accusing Focus of the Family? Basically this article says it is ok to be anti-christian but not anti-gay! How can you push for tolerance but turn right around and condemn Christians for their beliefs? It seems the real “SERVING OF HATE” is coming from this article and magazine. It is sad when the world’s standards are put above God’s.

  6. Arielle says:

    As much as I disagree with Focus on the Family and all of their beliefs, should we really punish children in third world countries because we don’t agree with someone’s views? The purpose of TOMs was to produce environmentally friendly shoes as well as to provide shoes to barefoot children around the world. I just spent 7 months in Africa and Asia and the amount of people who walk around without shoes is tremendous. We may not agree with Blake’s views, and we may wish he was attending feminist events instead, but we should not boycott his brand, therefore taking away shoes from children in need, just because we disagree.

  7. I Think everyone should keep in mind that not all Christians have “focus on the family” views. people read things like this and think that all christians are against gay rights. I am a Christian and believe that gays deserve to get married. they have every right everyone else does. I know wear Bobs because tey do one for one are just as comfortable. Blake can have his beliefs but he shouldnt have brought his company into it

  8. Last week, we reported that TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie spoke at a California event sponsored by Focus On The Family, a right-wing evangelical Christian group with a strong anti-homosexuality agenda, and we weren’t the only ones who noticed. Now, following criticism from multiple parties, Mycoskie responds.
    “Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly. Furthermore, contrary to what has been reported, Focus on the Family is not a TOMS giving partner. So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud,”

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