CURVES FOR WOMEN: Is Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice AFA a Healthy Promo Partner?

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Mon, Jan 19 - 8:31 am EDT | 6 years ago by
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At a time when many Curves For Women franchise owners are fighting for financial survival, Curves International is risking a public backlash by promotionally partnering with the divisive and highly controversial anti-gay and pro-life American Family Association.

The promotion:  Curves and American Family Radio (AFR) – an affiliate of the American Family Association (AFA) – are promoting a healthy recipe contest.  The Curves ads were nestled between politically charged pro-life stories and videos on the AFR website, and the prize included a free year membership at a Curves Club and an audio Bible dvd.

According to its website, the American Family Association (AFA) is a non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization that believes “in holding accountable the companies which sponsor programs attacking traditional family values. We also believe in commending those companies which act responsibly regarding programs they support.”   One of their main goals is to “expose the misrepresentation of the radical homosexual agenda and stop its spread though our culture.”

The controversial AFA has put pressure on a number of franchise organizations.  It picketed Southland Corporation for selling adult magazines in 7-11 stores and led a boycott of McDonald’s for contributing to supposedly supporting a gay rights organization.

The Curves For Women/AFA promotional partnership has already begun drawing the ire of the gay and lesbian community.

According to a letter sent to Curves from Paula Brooks, the publisher of the lesbian blog Lez Get Real:

In the past AFA has supported through its mis-information campaigns; the criminalization of homosexuality, has lobbied against same-sex marriage, and opposed equal-rights and hate-crime legislation that would include sexual orientation and gender identity under categories already protected and generally would like to see gays and lesbians disappear from the face of the earth.

The AFA also has called for the arrest of an openly gay Arizona Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, the boycott of the Girl Scouts of American was because it does not ban lesbian scouts or lesbian scout leaders and harassed any company the AFA even remotely thought might be supporting what it refers to as the “homosexual agenda.”
Needless to say the AFA is all and all not really an organization that as a lesbian I would really find very endearing and in the same token don’t find it very endearing that Curves would be partnering with such a group.

The blog Queers United has been actively blogging and posting comments on Twitter to “Demand that Curves drop their sponsorship and association with the anti-gay hate group known as the AFA.”

The big question:  WHY?

Why would Curves International risk kicking a hornet’s nest for a minor recipe contest promotion with little potential upside?

Why risk stirring up the media firestorm it endured in 2005 when Curves was (falsely) accused of funding radical anti-abortion groups.

Is Curves founder and born-again Christian Gary Heavin using franchisee ad money to support his personal charities?

How do Curves franchise owners feel about the promotional partnership with the American Family Association?

Read related posts here:

CURVES WATCH: Curves Franchise Posts & Discussions

Is McDonald’s Funding a “naked homosex-fest”?

McDonald’s: Did McD’s Cave to Anti-Gay Group’s Boycott?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.

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  • Who Cares?

    Are only media approved thoughts and associations permitted?

    Curves promotes exercise and healthy dieting for women of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. Franchises coulldn’t care less what members are doing outside of Curves with the exception of how much candy they might be eating. This is a non issue and it seems this site might have a personal vendetta against the owner of Curves that has nothing to do with business? Or maybe not. But it’s not against the law for businesses to associate with legitimate organizations, including religious ones. Considering all franchises are individually owned and operated, any owner who wanted to opt-out of this promotion and not honor the free year for this recipe contest winner, certainly would have been allowed to do so. That is if the owner was more interested in the politics of her new member versus her healthy lifestyle.

  • http://Joe,thePlumber carol cross

    This is difficult subject matter that most Americans would prefer not to think about. Not smart, probably, to invite the ire of the gay community who might picket the Curves stores —-but this might be good advertising. Who knows?

    Traditional families, of course, who are straight and who have children, hope that their children will be straight and don’t really want their children to EXPERIMENT with their sexuality. If a vote were to be taken, most polite people would vote that a person’s sexualtity should remain a private matter and not flaunted in public, and that homosexuals should have all of the rights that all citizens have –except the right to marriage –and to form social clubs in the public schools.

    The gay agenda presents homosexuality as “normal for those who are “born” this way but most gays say they wish that they had been born straight because of the pain of living gay in a heterosexual world. HIV, of course, IS more prevalent in the Gay community if statistics are to be believed.

    The AFA resents the fact that the gays suggest that young people “experiment” to find their true sexual orientation and believes that society as a whole should not support this agenda because it does not support “natural” life forces, etc. and God’s will for mankind.

    While homosexuality may be normal for some human beings, it is not a natural practice that should be encouraged by society. It takes an egg and sperm to make a baby and the human baby needs years of nourishment, etc.

    In our culture where sex is product and anything goes, and pornography is on the early news, the Gay community has made great progress because most Americans are more tolerant of diversity of any kind.

    It is politically incorrect to be “pro-family” unless “gay” families are included and thus the AFA are made out to be the bad guys because they push for family values and families that are produced by the union of a man and a woman, a sperm and an egg. To be “pro-family” is to be “pro-nature” —–or something like that.

    I never thought of the AFA as being a “hate” group, anymore than I thought about the Catholic Church or the Baptist Church being as hate group. Guess I’m out of touch!

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    If you read the 500+ comments from struggling Curves owners here you’ll see that they need every single marketing dollar to work overtime helping promote their image and boost membership. Many of them voice the concern that Curves International is more interested in promoting its own agenda than supporting their clubs.
    Many of these clubs are teetering on extinction. One good protest, boycott, petition could push many of them into bankruptcy… (in which event they’ll owe CI a $10K failure fee) Is a little recipe promotion worth that risk?
    Was this launched with the franchisee’s best interest in mind?

  • Who Cares?

    By your reasoning, if they take out an ad in the Farmers Weekly they risk offending potential vegetarian customers. It’s silly. We live in an age where being offended is a full time job. I’m offended that everyone is so offended!

  • Who Cares?

    500 comments does not equal 500 franchises. How many of the 500 comments are by the same owners? What is the # of unique owners posting?

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    Who Cares:
    The post is written as a question, an invitation to voice an opinion.
    Thanks for voicing yours.

  • Fed-Up

    Who Cares (or shall I say, “Curves Corporate Shill”),

    You are right 500 comments do not mean 500 franchisees’. However, 350 lawsuits do mean 350 lawsuits. And that is only the first group as I suspect that the second group will be at least another 350. If you do the math, that will be 700 lawsuits to a population of 7,000 clubs in the US. That will be at a minimum of 10%. Furthermore that is only those; who know about, can afford, and are willing to file a claim against Curves International. That is a lot of dissatisfaction in the system.

    So, “Curves Corporate Shill” I suggest that you use your time more productively rather then monitor these boards along with uselessly attempt to change our opinions by your “corp-speak” dribble. Instead, head down to local Starbucks, order up a few lattes, put pencil to pad and develop a comprehensive workable business model for this franchise. Yes, “Curves Corporate Shill” that means you, Howard and the rest of you in corporate need to do some real work for a change. The ‘go-go’ easy money fast cash days of selling franchises are over. In this economic climate the goal is survival. That means you too.

    Your analogy of anti-gay to farmers is beyond ridiculous. But, expected from corporate as another deny, deflect and distract tactic.

    The issue here is that Howard continues to alienate OUR customers – not his customers. WE are the ones who are in the fitness business. Howard sells franchises, tee-shirts and popcorn. By Howard’s association with controversial organizations, politics and movements his actions ultimately diminish our membership and erode our market share. Being overly, “Christian” alienates Jews, Muslims, and Agnostics. Being ‘Pro-Life’ shuns women who are ‘Pro-Choice’. How many of you remember the Today’s Christian and San Francisco fiascos a few years back? Now, Howard is partnering up with an organization that is strongly anti-gay. Being a women’s only club, I can guarantee that each club has more then one lesbian or bisexual woman as a member. Can any owner afford to lose more members due to Howard’s personal politics? CI is NOT a public company. Understand that Howard’s behavior and Curves International is seen as the same.

    What is next Howard, is Curves going to be a “White-Only”? Speaking of race, how many corporate officers on Curves are non-white?

    “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

    Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
    An early supporter of Hitler turned resister. Imprisoned at Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps.

  • http://www.curves.com Becky Frusher

    In the interest of balance, I’d like to share the response from Curves International to Paula Brooks:

    Dear Paula –

    Thanks for giving us a chance to reply.

    You’ll be happy to know that Curves International doesn’t support any organization either financially or though action. Our programs, partnerships and marketing initiatives are based solely on sound business decisions and nothing else. We don’t look at agendas – we look at people. Our mission statement is simple — Strengthening Women — no matter where they are found and no matter what their sexual preference, religion, ethnicity or politics.

    I hope that you’ll reconsider your Curves membership, as I’m sure the independent businesswoman who owns your Curves is not interested in infringing on your rights as a lesbian. She’s simply trying to make a difference in the lives of the women in her community and earn a living for her family.

    Very sincerely,

    Becky Frusher
    Director, Corporate Communications
    Curves International, Inc.

    I’d also like to make it clear that absolutely no dollars were spent on this promotion; it’s simply one more way that Curves International is working hard to cost-effectively promote the brand and the business in the interests of its franchisees.

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    Becky:
    Thanks very much for commenting.
    I have a couple of questions.
    You say that Curves International doesn’t support any organization either financially or though action. However, isn’t allowing the AFA and AFR to use the Curves name, give away free Curves memberships & dvds,and sell Curves merchandise a form of support? I’m certain they are benefitting by association with such a powerful brand, no?

    You write: …it’s simply one more way that Curves International is working hard to cost-effectively promote the brand and the business in the interests of its franchisees.
    In 2005, I believe, there was an outcry against Curves for allegedly contributing to radical anti-abortion groups – which Curves disclaimed and disproved.
    Did that end up being good publicity? Is Curves not worried about bad press for affiliating with the AFA because “any press is good press.”?
    I do recall that years ago Cracker Barrel was charged with actively discriminating against gay employees – and the ensuing press actually boosted sales in some conservative and rural areas.
    Is Curves willing to risk this “bad press” because CI perceives it may be a sound business decision – esp. since Prop 8 indicates that many don’t care about gay rights?

  • Cali Curves

    Becky,

    It is good to see Curves responding to the propaganda put out by Sean Kelly. He claims to not have a stance one way or the other, but this blog is designed to slander Curves and people who post anything positive about it.

    Sean, the very nature of this thread, and the angle in which you presented the information is clearly designed to incite negative opinions. You pose questions to the readers as if it they are fact. Yet you have not taken the time to get the answers yourself. You ASSume too much. Your credibility is weak. If you want to come across as an intelligent, credible, news worthy site, start doing homework and ask questions that are based on fact not something you pulled out of your back side.

    Perhaps you should do a little due diligence and at least make an attempt to contact Mrs. Frusher in the future. At least if you are trying to present an informed, objective position. She could have at lease saved you the embarrassment. Instead you rely on groups like Queers United (which should be “Queers Uninformed and Defensive”

    Cali Curves

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    Cali Curves:

    I appreciate the editorial advice.

    Care to add some content to the discussion? Why not inform the uninformed… as long as you’re here?

  • http://bridgeout.wordpress.com/ Wendy

    OH!! I am so bummed to read this! I just heard about it today through Queers Unites. Curves is my low impact option to make sure that I keep moving at least 3 times a week. I am so disappointed when companies have to go in a direction that excluded many who they need as customers! I’m going to look into this more.
    Thanks for bringing it to our attention!!

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    Wendy:
    Keep in mind that your club owner may not share the corporations support of the AFA. Why not ask her. Perhaps she’ll share the negative reactions to Curves Corporation, their VP marketing, and Ms. Thrusher.

  • Marc Shamuss

    The language of the original article was unusually extreme and inflamatory. When 30 states have banned same-sex marriage, it is not very bright to call it “divisive and highly controversial”. Americans seem pretty united in opposing same-sex unions, so what is controversial?

  • unhappy

    To Cali Curves and Who cares,
    I would like to inform you both that as a Curves owner almost since the beginning I do care about the advertising partners that Curves International supports. This will only hurt our membership even more just like when Howie gave money under the Curves name to the right to life groups in 2000. The media backlash on that was tremendous in some areas and I’m sure it will be the same here for some clubs. Furthermore Cali Curves , Sean is not spreading propaganda as you state in your post but is giving owners past and present a chance to vent and share horror stories of how Curves International treats it’s franchisee’s. You as an owner knows full well of all the club closings and the complaints that all owners have against Curves International. It’s good that the home office is watching these posts as the momentum is growing fast on these sites and will continue to grow as more clubs face closing this year. It is also good to see that owners like you are reading these posts as most of us have no complaints with other owners and believe in the workout but are fed up with the way Curves International is being managed or should I say mismanaged. I’m sure you are both members of the Yahoo group curves owners site and are aware of the discontent even on that site. Get your heads out of the sand, quit drinking the Howie cool aid and join us in putting a stop to Howie’s self destruction.
    Oh for your information Who Cares, their are a lot more than 500 clubs who post on these sites. I have been in touch with over 950 clubs who all read these posts and many participate in the discussion. All of them are unhappy with Howie and are considering joining the group action lawsuit while many have hired lawyers to go after Howie alone. You don’t need to take my word on it check it out for yourself. Call the Waco Federal District court and ask the person who answers about the law suit. They will give you an ear full.

  • unhappy

    To all past and present curves owners

    It is time for all past and present owners of Curves franchises to stand up and file complaints against Curves International and Gary Howard Heavin. I’m sure we can all agree that this company is in serious trouble with all the club closures and while the economy certainly has hurt our business the main set back is how the company is being run into the ground by Gary Heavin and his co-hearts. It should be obvious to all owners that the only way this will change is if we take action as a group. Some owners have been talking about a boycott of the monthly franchise and advertising fees that we pay. While that will certainly get their attention if enough of us follow through we can accomplish it even faster if we all file complaints with the BBB in Waco, TX, the BBB in your area, the Attorney General of your state, the Attorney General of the state of TX. and the Federal Trade Commission. I have included web site addresses where you can go to file such a complaint. Please do so ASAP and lets see how Howie handles the complaints.

    http://www.bbb.org/

    http://waco.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=40&id=ab5100aa-4c5a-4314-8e1b-f5996973f10c

    http://www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/index.shtml

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/index.shtml

  • http://www.franbest.com Sean Kelly

    Marc Shamuss writes: Americans seem pretty united in opposing same-sex unions, so what is controversial?
    The AFA is not solely focused on opposing same-sex unions, it’s opposed to gays (the “gay lifestyle”). Don’t you think, from a marketing standpoint, promoting a group that is perceived as an enemy of a segment of your franchisees’ customer base might be a bit controversial?
    A great number of Curves franchisees & ex-franchisees have voiced the concern that CI is not always acting with their best interest in mind, but follows its own agenda (Read: http://www.franchisepick.com/is-curves-for-women-a-good-franchise-investment/).

    Mark: Are you suggesting that since most Americans support the AFA’s position, this is a good promotional partner? That it might help drive membership?

  • unhappy

    When is howie going to learn that he can have and hold any belief he wants but he shouldn’t use the corporate business to advance his beliefs. Curves owners were hurt with his pro life stance years ago and now this will obviously hurt us again. This man is very self distructive which is fine as long as he doesn’t take the franchisee’s with him. Unfortunatly everything he does affects the franchisee’s and in a negitive way. Anyone who thinks this will help drive membership to our clubs needs to see a shrink.

  • Fed-Up

    Becky Frusher
    Director, Corporate Communications
    Curves International, Inc.,

    Thank you for posting on this board and for your information that no dollars were spent on the promotion with AFA.

    Though I do disagree with the wisdom of working with such an organization I do have a question for you:

    Our monthly advertising fee is $195 a month per club. On an annual basis that would come to $2,340 per year for each club. In the US market we have over 7,000 clubs. Therefore, on a conservative level, 2,340 multiplied by 7,000 clubs comes to $16,380,000 a year. While it is generally good to see that CI is busy with itself finding free advertising and/or promotions (except for the objections mentioned above) I would like to know what other advertising CI has done for the past year, 2008. And more specifically, what advertising CI paid for with that 16 million dollars.

    In view of the fact that you are the Director of Corporate Communications I am confidant Becky that you can communicate this question to Marketing and Finance and communicate the answer back to us. Given that this question has come up many times in the past I am sure you can appreciate the opportunity that you have to build some confidence between the franchises and corporate.

  • unhappy

    Hey Becky lets hear your explantion and send it to the yahoogroupcurvesowners site as well. We all would be so geatfull for a responce, but to tell the truth I won’t hold my breath. The floor is all your’s——-

  • unhappy but getting happy

    CALLING BECKY FRUSHER,— CALLING BECKY FRUSHER —WHERE HECK ARE YA GIRL OH MY OH MY WHERE DID LITTLE BECKY FRUSHER GO—
    WE ARE ALL WAITING FOR YOUR REPLY

  • unhappy

    HEY BECKY GIRL WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU. IS IT THAT YOU CAN’T RESPOND OR JUST DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY? Looks like just another lap dog for Howie.

  • Fed-Up

    Becky Frusher
    Director, Corporate Communications
    Curves International, Inc.,

    It has been three weeks since my question to you (See my post on Jan. 26, 2009). We are all aware now that Curves International monitors these boards. Yet, you have remained mute on my question as to how 16 million dollars is spent for advertising. This is not a new question and many franchisees would very much like to know and understand how these precious dollars are spent.

    Secondly, I also asked another question (see my post dated Jan. 20, 2009). This question is in regard to the racial make-up of Curves Corporate Officers. This is only a natural question considering the seemingly prejudicial stances that Howard has taken. And clearly a stance that others would expect to defend.

    To recap the questions:

    Question One: “Our monthly advertising fee is $195 a month per club. On an annual basis that would come to $2,340 per year for each club. In the US market we have over 7,000 clubs. Therefore, on a conservative level, 2,340 multiplied by 7,000 clubs comes to $16,380,000 a year. While it is generally good to see that CI is busy with itself finding free advertising and/or promotions (except for the objections mentioned above) I would like to know what other advertising CI has done for the past year, 2008. And more specifically, what advertising CI paid for with that 16 million dollars. “

    Question Two: “…Howard is partnering up with an organization that is strongly anti-gay. Being a women’s only club, I can guarantee that each club has more then one lesbian or bisexual woman as a member. Can any owner afford to lose more members due to Howard’s personal politics? CI is NOT a public company. Understand that Howard’s behavior and Curves International is seen as the same.
    What is next Howard, is Curves going to be a “White-Only”? Speaking of race, how many corporate officers on Curves are non-white?

    For these questions to remain unanswered equates to at least suspicion and distrust, and at worse deception and guilt on the part of the franchisees’ and the public as a whole.

  • unhappy

    Fed up,
    Your questions are right on but do you really think you will get a anwser? It is very doubtful that they will respond as if they did all the franchises would be in an uproar. What I don’t understand is were is the outradge over this and all the other things that corporate has done to hurt the owners of the franchises? the only way to get corporates attention is through the courts. Howie will be held acountable as hundreds of owners are now taking him to court.

  • Fed-Up

    Unhappy,

    Actually yes I do. If the company has nothing to hide like they say they don’t, they I do expect them to answer. Especially when one considered they underlining messages that is within the questions: Thievery and Racism.

  • unhappy

    Well for Heaven sake don’t hold your breath

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  • Teri

    I am proud that Curves is standing against something that is Biblically wrong. We need more Christians out there standing strong in God’s word and not being afraid to say so.

  • Brent

    I grew up with Gary Heavin. He has done more for women’s health than any other person living or dead. I am glad that he does not promote the gay life style. It’s perverse and it goes completely against what he believes. Back off him and let him do what he does best. Helping women have a better life.

  • unhappy

    To all curves owners who have had problems with curves International and Gary Howie Havein please send your complaints to the BBB of your city and Waco TX. As well as the attorney general of your state and TX. And the federal trade commission. Below are web links where you can file the complaints on line.

    http://www.bbb.org/

    http://waco.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=40&id=ab5100aa-4c5a-4314-8e1b-f5996973f10c

    http://www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/index.shtml

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/index.shtml