Philadelphia Metropolis


Born to Boycott

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By Janet Golden

Not so long ago I emailed a close friend an article that revealed her favorite line of yoga wear, Lululemon, came from a company that promoted the works of Ayn Rand.  I expected her to be grateful for the news and, since she is a good left political activist, to thank me for alerting her so she'd never shop there again.

Instead she asked: "Why did you have to tell me that?"

I was shocked at her response. But then, I come from a boycotting family.

Growing up in Southern California we boycotted all things John Birch Society.  No Russell Stover candy ever passed my lips.  As my mother taught me, Mrs. Stover gave money to the Birchers.

boycott.jpgDitto for Knott's Berry Farm.  Everyone went there, often combined with a trip to Disneyland.  Not me.  Those Knott's folks, I learned from my mother, were Birchers. I'm just glad Walt Disney never gave money to rightwing groups, or if he did, that my parents never found out about it.  Otherwise, I'd never have gotten to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean--the ride that inspired the movie.

Moving to Philadelphia gave me a whole new set of boycott opportunities. Local unions produced boycott lists and with the Internet age they migrated to web. I had my list. But I didn't need an organization to tell me what to boycott. When a local restaurant destroyed a surprise 50th birthday party planned by a friend for her husband by canceling the reservation at the last minute, I promised to boycott the place forever.  And even though no one specifically asked me to, I tried to avoid the local Barnes and Noble and Borders and shop only at the small bookstores around my local university. I don't think I can be praised or blamed for the fact that all of them are now closed. 

More recently I've become an aficionado of Facebook group boycott pages. I'm not an Eagles fan and if I was I'd probably have to wait years to get season's tickets, but when that Boycott the Eagles Facebook Group page went up after they hired Michael Vick I felt as if my habit of never watching Eagles games on television was no longer simply something I took for granted, it was a political action.

If you'd invited me over to watch football instead of saying, "no thanks" I'd probably have answered, "I'm boycotting the Eagles."  My mother, who still lives in Los Angeles, and is the boycott queen, actually told me she now hated the Eagles even though she'd never been a professional football fan.  My children, on the other hand, are big Eagles fans and won't even discuss this with me.  This suggests, contrary to what I'd always believed, that there is no boycott gene.

One problem with boycotts, is that when they end it is hard to resume using whatever it was you were boycotting.

When Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta led the United Farm Worker's grape boycott in 1965 those items disappeared from our house.  It took me decades to learn to eat them again.  Another problem is that there are a lot of boycotts, perhaps too many.

You've got to set your bookmarks and check websites before you buy anything or go anywhere.  And with all the evil in the world, no matter how hard you try you are probably contributing to some nefarious practice--whether it is child labor overseas, or mistreatment of workers here at home.  If you come from a boycotting family this only leads to guilt.  And you can't boycott guilt.

But I guess you can spread it around.  That's probably why I like to let my friends know what they should be boycotting. Like me, they'll probably (unknowingly) own things they never should have purchased in the first place. Maybe they'll feel guilty, like I do.  Isn't that what friends are for?

But I suppose if I don't tame this habit, I may soon be the object of a boycott by my friends.


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