Reading Refiner29’s article promoting women-owned clothing and accessory brands brought vivid memories of the first time I heard the phrase, vote with your wallet. A college sophomore in an environmental studies class, I learned that voting with your wallet is as an important tactic available to consumers who value sustainable development and good environmental practices. This phrase was not attached to a party but to principles, i.e., if you value the planet, whenever available you would purchase the goods that are produced in an environmentally-friendly manner. Ever since, the concept has intrigued me and as an adult I put forth effort to purchase goods from companies that practice sound environmentally and socioeconomic policies; I’m not always successful but I try. Before moving on, I would also like to address the elephant in the room. Voting with your wallet is a privilege that is not financially accessible to all. This article in no way, shape, or form disparages those who cannot do so.
Back to the subject. In the heightened partisan state of our union; a lot of the conversation about voting with your wallet has been focused on political parties and individuals, not values. This is not the best approach to attaining long-term change. Yes, I understand that some individuals are antithetical to our values. Hence, any entity that supports or associates with said individuals acquires guilt by association. However, tying our monetary vote to parties or individuals limits the scope and long-term impact of that monetary power. Simply because, people and political parties are superficial representations of our values. People and parties change, what’s right does not. Of course, I don’t completely disparage the efforts of Shannon Coulters’ Grab Your Wallet campaign, that also highlights where one should spend in lieu of entities that support Trump. However, I do pose the question, what happens when Trump is no longer president? Do we then go back to buying goods from the so called perpetrators like we were before? Trump might be a symbol of what is wrong with the world right now, but he won’t be a salient symbol forever; hopefully.
I’m making a case for prioritizing values over allegiance to person/party/organization, because choosing to purchase from or boycotting a target based on ideals gives the target an opportunity to carry out long-term institutional changes rather than superficially conforming to a trending ire driven by a person or party. For example, fair trade organizations pushed the importance of fair trade practices which consumers internalized overtime. Now there is even a Fair Trade label that makes it easier for consumers to vote for fair trade with their wallets. No one is loyal to the fair trade organization, they just value the concept; so if for some reason the organization no longer exists, the platitude remains. So while #boycottuber may have forced Uber to shell out 3 million dollars on legal representation for its drivers after the Muslim ban, its business will operate as usual after the fact. Nothing to my knowledge has changed about Uber’s institutional perspective on bigotry or the violation of human rights.
So here is my plea to everyone out there who wants to use economic pressure to incentivize positive change: please write down your values, research which products/companies align with them, then spend your money on those products/companies. You don’t even necessarily have to think of it as a boycott of other companies, it’s simply an effort to encourage a certain type of behavior.
I’ll be spending more of my clothing budget at Everlane, because I love their commitment to sustainable fashion; extra credit for making dope shirts that passes a portion of your purchase to charities like Equality Now and ACLU.