Boycotting corporations does little to spur political change

Our nation’s current political climate involves many crucial aspects of United States bureaucracy, administration and overall societal norms. Among everyday citizens, there is a growing wave of motivation to organize or to act in some way against—or in support of—President Donald Trump.

While hardly controversial compared to other recent events—such as the anti-Trump women’s rights marches that occurred on Saturday Jan. 21 or White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about the media—a debatably ineffective method adopted to resist Trump’s influence is a boycott against corporations whose founders or owners support him.

One corporation at the center of the anti-Trump boycotts is L.L. Bean, the clothing retailer Trump recently thanked via Twitter for a private political action committee donation on behalf of Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder.

While Bean’s donation was not connected to the corporation—as its current Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman emphasized that the company “stay[s] out of politics”—the viral nature of Twitter helped tarnish its reputation. The hashtag campaign “#GrabYourWallet” was created to motivate a boycott against the company.

Boycotts, historically and contemporarily, are socially significant methods of engaging in the political process. The problem with the L.L. Bean boycotting campaign is that it singles out only one corporation—out of probably hundreds, if not thousands—that engage in political or economic activity that one may deem unethical or immoral. Bean was outspoken about her political beliefs, yet there are most likely many conservative or like-minded people in her position that prefer to keep their politics private.

Realistically, refusing to shop at L.L. Bean—or other corporations that endured minor controversies, such as Chick-Fil-A and its homophobic owner—is more of a personal triumph than one that installs significant resistance or change. Boycotting one corporation while not acknowledging the ills of others is not exactly productive; the consequent self-praise one may give oneself for this method of resistance does not help activist efforts either.

If one wants to boycott a corporation that he/she deems problematic—for whatever reason—it must be a committed and ongoing lifestyle choice, because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. Engaging in protests, organized demonstrations or educational workshops related to resistance are better ways to contribute real energy to a cause.