AT last, a boycott I can get behind. I have cancelled my order for that £125 Dolce & Gabbana silk tie and will not be darkening the Italian fashion house’s doors again.
I joke, of course. On the rare occasion I wear a tie these days, it tends to be a cheap supermarket number – or M&S if I’m pushing the boat out.
But the important thing is that people with a lot more money – and passion for fashion – than I are deserting Dolce & Gabbana in their droves over comments made by co-founder Domenico Dolce about babies born by IVF.
Leading the way is Sir Elton John, a father to two sons conceived by IVF, and who reacted with laser-guided vitriol to Dolce’s assertion that children who come into the world in such a way are “synthetic”.
“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’,” the singer wrote on social media site Instagram. “And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF — a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children.
“Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions,” he continued. “I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again.” Legions of parents are now following in Sir Elton’s expensively-shod footsteps. And they are right to do so, even if given the cost of raising children I do wonder how many of them were actually Dolce & Gabbana customers in the first place.
Families are now sharing pictures of their IVF children on Twitter and the hashtag #boycottdolceandgabanna is trending. This row could easily be dismissed as the latest skirmish in an internecine war raging within the gay community. Dolce and his fashion partner Stefano Gabbana, who are both gay, are vocal opponents of children being raised by same-sex couples.
The truth is that many will agree with their view that children need a mother and a father. The controversy surrounding David Cameron’s championing of same-sex marriage is testament to the fact that there is still widespread unease around the issue.
However, in decrying IVF babies as “synthetic” and the “children of chemicals”, the designers are guilty of more than simply internalising the prejudice so often directed at their community.
They are dehumanising youngsters in a manner that likens them to the characters in Kazuo Ishiguro chilling dystopian novel Never Let Me Go, who spend their lives coming to terms with the horrifying reality that they have been cloned in order to provide vital organs for “normals” through a series of “donations” that will ultimately lead to their death.
The designers may hide behind a smokescreen of freedom of speech but these are hateful sentiments which will hurt parents deeply and carry the potential to be the trigger for playground bullying.
Most of us will know at least one family who have children who were born via IVF. I know several. Do they love them any less than parents whose children were born the “conventional” way? Of course not.
Where is Dolce and Gabbana’s justification for refusing people treatment that would enhance their lives? In vitro fertilisation has been around since the first “test tube baby” Louise Brown entered the world in 1978. It is like saying it is wrong to treat cancer, even though we have the tools to do so. The idea that IVF is somehow a lifestyle choice, the easy option, as the designers suggest, is also errant nonsense. It is a gruelling, heartbreaking process of trial and error. It is also eye-wateringly expensive.
One in every 50 babies born in the UK is the result of IVF treatment, but six out of every 10 IVF cycles are funded privately, as people side-step long NHS waiting lists and the postcode lottery of fertility treatment.
Up until last year, if you lived in the Vale of York or in Scarborough and Ryedale, an area encompassing nearly 500,000 people, you would not be offered access to IVF treatment at all. Each area now funds one cycle per couple – but given that there’s a 75 per cent chance each cycle won’t succeed, getting pregnant from a single round is akin to winning the lottery.
It means would-be parents are left at the mercy of market forces, paying up to £10,000 for each cycle of IVF. Such is their desperation to conceive that scores of couples have been left penniless as a result – and are still without the child they crave.
Then consider all those parents who conceive children naturally and then heap nothing but neglect and abuse on the poor souls. This week a couple in York were spared jail despite housing a five-year-old in a fly-infested hovel filled with rubbish, dog faeces and dirty dishes.
The youngster had endured such a miserable upbringing that he told his foster carer that “Santa” had stopped coming to visit his house, even though he had “been good”. There are countless couples who would offer love and security to the child they so desperately want. Who are Dolce and Gabbana to tell them that is wrong?