How does boycotting help?

A company has done something that is fundamentally against your ideology, maybe even borderline hateful to a subset of the society. The problem with such big, oftentimes faceless organizations is there is no way to directly sanction any one person, so people resort to boycotting the entire organization. For instance, there are very many people in America angry with Chik Fil A, and would never step a foot in any of their locations; some people have sworn off Target forever; some others have burned all of their Nike sneakers; some people would rather poke  a hole in their own skin that shop at H&M; some would soon rather become Chewbacca with all that hair, than use another Gillette razor; yet another group of people would rather go bald than buy one more Shea Moisture product...and the list goes on and on. You probably get the point by now. If you also look very closely, you'll notice boycotting is not specific to any one ideology: conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheist, cows, goats, hens...everybody and their mamas boycott companies and people. So this is not a "snowflake" thing, except everyone is a snowflake, then okay.

So yes, boycotting is the new norm; it's the new form of protest and activism. People that boycott often think they have done their good deed of the century and can now go to rest knowing they have saved the world. Er not quite. Let's start by asking, how fruitful is boycotting? Chik Fil A is one of the highest grossing fast food restaurants; H&M is booming. Nike's stocks is off the roof. So again, what is the point? For me, it was just a thing of principle. My money is my power and my voice, so I am not going to waste it. But even this makes less sense. Because this is where collective action comes in; a la stronger together? Honestly, let's forget the utility of boycotting for a second. Whether or not it hurts the company, I am not really about boycotting anymore. Or shall I say I am more selective about boycotting. I would probably never listen to R-Kelly again. Kanye needs to read a history book and till he does, boy bye. The NFL is cancelled. To be fair, not watching the Super Bowl was like me giving up burgers and fast food; I never liked them to begin with.

The next question, I guess is, is selective boycotting not even worse? Remember my post about the ethics of hair? I was enraged that more people were not boycotting hair vendors considering the suspicious circumstances many of them acquire the hair. Again, when people boycott H&M, and other corporate organizations, it's not really the big bad, racist boss that suffers, it's regular joes and janes who work there to make ends meet. The executives that made these awful decisions would not be affected, it's the black people and other minorities working retail hours in the stores that would lose their jobs ad means of living. Remember, the 2008 recession. Guess who was rewarded?  When the banks were bailed out, they literally paid executives on Wall street. The same executives that caused the housing crisis and entire recession. Yup. regular folks like you and I who work their behinds off were laid off, lost their own houses, and went in debt. And that's what makes me uncomfortable.

Yet, there has to be some other way to hold these people accountable. So I will not necessarily ask others to stop boycotting. Not to mention, asking people to boycott stores like Forever 21 and H&M can easily come off as elitist. Not everyone can afford to shop at JCrew or Express or Nordstrom or even Target (which is arguably relatively cheap) or some other place with all the right, ethical standards. For most people, they can only shop  in these places that you want them to boycott. There is also an outcry for the boycott Walmart. I don't doubt that Walmart is unethical; it's just, Walmart is the only place some people can afford to buy groceries. Walmart is the only place some people can get a job. Getting my point?

I think that's the nuance I'm beginning to see as I grow older, that things are not always so black and white. To be clear, sometimes, and this might sound contradictory; but it's as easy as just boycotting. When racist, uncouth, loud mouthed, rude Roseanne messed up again like she always had, I wanted her show off air. But I also worried that people with jobs on the show lost their jobs. We also have to realize some people are more easy to boycott than others. The point being, think more carefully about your choices, about your rage, and about your decisions. Think carefully about your expectations of others as well, and in this world of extremes, consider some nuance.



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