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Do Boycotts Work? Ask Hobby Lobby.

The New York Times magazine recently published an Ethicist article about shopping at Hobby Lobby for those that are pro-choice.  Or, I would argue, those that understand science and know that no method of abortion was ever on the table and that reproductive health care should be included in all health care packages.  But, I digress.  The question is, if you disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision on the case and you disagree with Hobby Lobby, is it okay to shop there?

In response, I have to ask, does it matter?  I’m sure there are loads of people that have boycotted Hobby Lobby in the last few months.  But when I google Hobby Lobby news, I get a string of articles about Hobby Lobby openings all across the country.  I think if you’re boycotting them, they don’t care.  Because there are enough people who aren’t bothering, and business is doing fine.  Chick-Fil-A also seems to be doing well, in case you were wondering.

That’s not to say that you should shop at Hobby Lobby or eat at Chick-Fil-A if it is going to keep you up at night.  By all means, head to Michael’s and KFC instead.  Better yet, go to a local craft store or chicken themed restaurant.  (Lest you think I don’t know conservatives also waste their time with boycotts, you might also feel like you need to use ask.com because Google donates to UNICEF, or maybe you get all your coffee from a local shop because Starbucks supports marriage equality.) When I say it doesn’t matter, what I mean is that it is not effective activism.  It is not making a difference.  Professional campaigns against brands can be effective, but grassroots efforts to boycott companies rarely change anything.  You can make a difference, though, if you donated and volunteered at organizations like Planned Parenthood and PFLAG.  Please keep that in mind.

 

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Comments

  1. Good, clear explanation of the ineffectiveness of boycotts. I would add that if you choose to participate in grassroots boycotts of movies, it invariably helps sell MORE tickets by providing free publicity.

    • This is a great point. In fact, I think it is true of all boycotts. For example, I know when boycotting Chick-Fil-A was the hip thing to do, there were Chick-Fil-As around the country that had lines out the door–supporters who were showing up to be supportive.

  2. It’s absolutely important to keep our intended effects (and actual outcomes) in mind when we do activism. I don’t eat ay Chik-fil-A not because I think they miss my money, but because as a queer person I cannot in good conscience allow my money – a manifestation of my time and energy – go toward a company which actively campaigns against me and others. My boycott, such as it is, has far more to do with myself than it does bringing down the establishment. And I think that’s okay – not everything we do as individual activists /can/ topple heterosexism. It’s an ongoing process we need many hands and many positions to make successful.

    • I absolutely agree. I’m not saying boycotting is wrong, at all. I’m just saying it is not activism. It is simply an absence of a thing. But if you can’t personally eat at Chick-Fil-A without feeling conflicted, I’m not saying you should.

  3. Boycotting as a national pressure may or may not work. There are more ppl who are apathetic than those who actually care. I haven’t shopped at a Hobby Lobby since they filed. No, it may not matter to Hobby Lobby, but it matters to me. I don’t eat at Chik Fil A either. For me, its as simple as this: If I disagree with a company, on a moral level, and shop their anyway, my morality meant nothing. If my money is spent there, it’s going to support things I find morally wrong. Hence, I am supporting what I find morally wrong. Do I wish it effected things? Yep, but too many ppl are apathetic.

    • (applauds) aselvarial I feel the same way, there has been a Hobby Lobby here for about 1 year now I haven’t shopped there once. Yes, there were protestors which lasted about a month, okay. Yes, they are cheaper than my local Micheal’s and other craft stores and I am sure they have more supplies, but they are NOT getting my money and that is the whole POINT of a boycott, NOT activism. There are many other products out there that I also do not purchase for pretty much the same reason. These companies decide to get political? So shall I, with my wallet.

  4. I’m replying to messages left on this page that are indicating boycotts do “no good” to discourage corporate agendas. Actually, living in the 3rd World Detroit area, and seeing the carcasses of factories and derelict homes, I see the “cause and effect” of corporate worship by the masses. If Abby Hoffman were alive today, he would be using the Internet as a balance of tolerance. We need a spokesperson to “sell” these boycotts to an otherwise confused and fearful public. 70% of the U.S. economy is consumer spending. We don’t need all their shit, so let’s not buy it. If it has no effect, then at least we save money.

  5. Boycotts can and do work. They must have passionate leaders and a good organization. I was active in the Delano Grape Boycott 1965-70. Grape demand dropped over 60%, it was the foundation of the United Farm Workers Union, and brought the growers to the bargaining table. Research successful boycotts. They can work. But keep the message alive and never give up.

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