Quebec’s Minister of Justice is asking people in that province if they really are as open as they say when it comes to homosexuality in the province’s first large-scale, publicly funded campaign to fight homophobia.
Launched Sunday night during the two most-watched TV shows in la Belle Province (La Voix on TVA and Tout le monde en parle on Radio-Canada), two spots questioned viewers’ ideas of openness. One shows a man waiting at the airport, getting a message on his phone saying “I’m coming, my love.” Both a woman and a man smile as they approach him, but he greets and kisses his boyfriend. The voiceover says: ”Does this change what you thought a few minutes ago?”
The other spot shows a woman arriving home to find a rose and a note saying “My love, come meet me in the living room.” It turns out to be a surprise party. Her female partner kisses her and wishes her a happy birthday.
The Québec City offices of Cossette have been working on the campaign for the past year. The campaign began as a mandate set by the now-defeated Liberal provincial government. When the Parti Quebecois took power in the fall of 2012, it carried that part of the Liberals’ agenda forward, bringing the campaign to completion.
”Our insight came after we did research and it came out that, individually, Quebecers thought they were more open-minded than society in general,” said Martine Delagrave, the agency’s Quebec City general manager. “When you scratch the surface, though, there is often a ‘but.’”
The research showed these “buts” often looked like this: “I have nothing against homosexuals, but is it really safe for them to raise children?” “I don’t mind gays, but do they have to kiss in the streets?”
“We wanted to invite the population to do an introspection and question their openness,” Delagrave said.
Part of the campaign is a website that allows people to do just that. The user is exposed to diverse situations – for example a little boy who “loves his two mommies” – then asked if the situation bothers them “not at all,” “a little” or “a lot.” After answering a few questions, the user gets their results and is invited to share the site within their social network.
In the 48 hours since the site’s launch, it has received 30,000 likes on Facebook, been tweeted 1,800 times, and 74% of people who started its online test completed it.
Delagrave said one of the challenge with this effort is that homophobia isn’t easy to measure. “Nobody wants to be labelled homophobic. The only measurement we have is when a homophobic crime is committed. That’s the sensationalist part. But the most insidious one is in attitudes.
“Also, because it’s backed by the government, the message had to be positive. We couldn’t target homophobic people and talk to them [directly]. We had to use the population in general to pass our message.”
The campaign has sparked some harsh comments. Morning TV show Salut, bonjour! asked its Facebook fans what they thought about it. More than 330 responded, and approximately 11% of those respondents said it wasn’t necessary to show two men kissing on TV, that they’re going to have to explain that to their kids. A TVA employee also received a voicemail asking the network to remove the spot showing ”two faggots kissing.”
“This is the proof this campaign was necessary,” said Delagrave.
A second campaign phase is planned to start in 2014, which will potentially address homosexual parenting.