TOMS Guy Speaks at Anti-Gay Group Focus on the Family’s Event, Apparently Regrets That Now

If you look down at your feet right now there’s a pretty good chance you’re wearing TOMS. If, on the other hand, you haven’t heard of them, basically they’re a company that makes funky canvas shoes. Also, with their One for One Pledge, for every pair you buy they’ll donate a pair to an adorable kid in need. Pretty sweet deal, right? Well, sweet enough that I wrote 90% of an article about how awesome they are and how they created the canvas shoes trend that is taking over.

so adorbs

YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH ADORABLE KIDS JUMPING IN ADORABLE SHOES

But then… well… stuff started to look sort of hatey. Like, hate-the-gays hatey. Turns out that Blake Mycoskie, the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, spoke at a Focus on the Family rally. You remember Focus on the Family right? The ones who really hate us. Well seriously, they teamed up with the seemingly do-gooders at TOMS to do a Feet on the Ground concert/rally/speech/Pokemon battle thing on June 30th. So I guess I’m supposed to boycott TOMS now for being in cahoots with the mega-haters. Except I can’t shake the feeling nothing protest worthy is really going on here. It’s not like TOMS held a giant anti-gay rally or rolled out their new line of “marriage=man+woman” shoes. It seems like the whole event was very giving focused. Gosh, maybe even (dare I say) focused on the family?!?!

From Jezebel:

There’s nothing inherently political about distributing shoes to African children, of course. In theory, it’s a good thing for Focus to spend less time trying to police sex and more actually helping people, but they’ve not really cut back on the former. And Focus On The Family isn’t the only group TOMS could have turned to for collaboration, nor is it the only Christian group involved in charitable missions. It carries significant cultural and political baggage, for good reason. TOMS is at major risk of alienating a constituency that has enthusiastically adopted their product, including yours truly.

Oh right, it was still a knowing collaboration with a group that actively seeks to oppress queer individuals. Queer individuals who heart TOMS shoes. It even seemed that TOMS was gearing up for the long haul with Focus on the Family as Christinity Today reported that Focus on the Family was “working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa.” Either Mycoskie/TOMS was indeed making a political statement or they need to replace their PR person with someone who doesn’t just sit on Google+ all day instead of researching collaborators.

HATE SHOES?

So we got ready to throw out our TOMS, paint picket signs and make jaded quips to our friends who were still wearing TOMS. But wait, there’s still more!

Following outcry about the shoe/gay hater alliance as well as a change.org petition Mycoskie made a public apology on his blog.

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.

HE'S JUST SUPER SORRY GUYS

Wait, what the deuce? Seriously. As basically everyone in the universe has said before me, all Mycoskie had to do was type “Focus on the Family” in to that long skinny box at the top of his browser. Oh, he’s using Firefox? So the top right box. This is not brain surgery. You do not need to call in Dr. McDreamy to determine that Focus on the Family has super double extra offensive views. Not to mention Mycoskie never actually specifically says “I heart the gays for real.”

I’m not saying that Mycoskie intentionally spoke at Focus on the Family’s event to secretly express his deep-seated hateful views. Honestly, enough people agree with him that if he wanted to be openly anti-gay he probably could be and remain successful. I think he booked every speaking event and partnership he could so he could get more little kids shoes and, oh yeah, Make More Money.

The bottom line: I still want canvas shoes, they’re basically the hottest shoe this season. Plus, it still seems better to buy from a company that gives to charity. So we’re still able to vote with our dollars.

Lizz is a consumer, lover and writer of all things pop culture and the Fashion/Style Editor at Autostraddle.com. She is also full time medical student at Brown University in Providence, RI. You can find her on the twitter, the tumblr or even on the instagram.

Lizz has written 276 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. A couple of friends of mine who saw TOMS “distributing” shoes in Cambodia basically by dumping a pile of seconds off a truck had already put me off them. Canvas shoes aren’t really that helpful to people who live in really wet rainforests, anyway, even if they do manage to get a pair that fit.

    • I also don’t trust that Toms has strong labor positive policies in their international manufacturing plants. They hardly mention it on their website and it is hard to learn where their manufacturing plants are. I feel like if they were creating sustainable business and good paying jobs in these same communities where they are dumping shoes they would be all over that PR opportunity.

  2. His “apology” is BS. So, he didn’t know who they were so we’re supposed to be ok with that? What if the National Alliance wanted him to speak at an event? Is that Ok? NO! Him and his apology can go to hell.

  3. can we just make our own super cheap super cute shoes for gay people. and donate the profits to the gays.

    shit. i’ve been living in nike flip flops that i got onsale because i cant find cute shoes that fit. plus the boy shoes i like are super expensive.

    plus also i think this would fix all of our problems. i would buy autostraddle shoes, for the record.

  4. Blake didn’t know about Focus on the Family because he lives in Santa Monica, aka the straightest yet most liberal place on earth–which lends itself to a degree of uninformed allies. don’t get me wrong…I love love love SaMo. but i do think there are plenty of people there who are allll about gay rights but who haven’t done a ton of research into who the anti gay coalitions actually are. or maybe i’m just trying to justify the awesome gray TOMS wedges I just bought and already took the tags off of, either way. 😉

  5. seconded. just think about this, people: why would anyone buy shoes from local shoemakers/sellers if they are being given them for free?

    there are actually no countries where toms are given away where there are not local shoe sellers, and this kind of paternalistic project is actually putting them out of business. there’s actually a video where they interview local shoe sellers about this.

  6. “it is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from private property”

    wow, that’s a really succint explanation of that whole point of view (which i tend to agree with)

  7. hmmm…I feel like this is a good place to mention that Toms shoes gave me my first and only concussion. they have terrible grip, or at least mine did. the experience left me thinking that maybe this wasn’t a very good design of shoe to donate.

  8. Since I used to be an Evangelical kid, it always feels so weird when anyone freaks out about how “evil” Focus on the Family is … like, I know they hate me and stuff, but I used to watch all their family-friendly movies and listen to James Dobson on the radio! The name automatically conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling and then I have to be like, “Oh wait, they also told me I had to submit to my husband … and have a husband, not a wife … WHY DID I WILLINGLY PUT THAT STUFF IN MY HEAD??”

    …Adventures in Odyssey, anyone?

      • My mom and I listened to that every freaking Wednesday evening when I was growing up on the way to church for choir practice/confirmation classes and I loved it. I owned an AiO youth study Bible. I was a crazy, raging, slightly-homophobic conservative…until I realized how gay I actually am.

        I’ve even shook hands with James Dobson. I was brainwashed, I tell you. Brainwashed.

        My biggest fear in life right now is that my brother’s church will ruin my poor little nephews.

  9. Honestly, I’m glad that I have a reason not to buy Toms…they’re kind of ugly and look like slippers to me. I’d much rather stick to Converse/Keds if I want canvas.

    How do you not know what Focus on the Family is? That’s the part that seems bizarre to me. I’d much rather he came out and say “lol guys, it was for the money!”

    It seems that we should really get pro-gay organizations to stop booking him as a form of protest.

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