Feminism in Action: Concrete Tip #8 (Put Your Money Where Your Values Are)

If you are new to this series, please check out the first post which explains the origin, the background and has a couple ground rules: Feminism in Action: Concrete Tip #1

Special note: I fact-check, I spell-check, I grammar-check and I check for broken links. If you see errors, please send me a message, don’t let me stay out here with toilet paper trailing from the soles of my intellectual shoes.

CONCRETE TIP #8:
Do not give money to anyone who harms women currently or has harmed women in the past without accountability or reformation.

Why?
Here are a couple of familiar sayings:
“Put your money where your mouth is”
“Vote with your feet/wallet”

Face it. The majority of us are regular people. We do not have fame or wealth or dictatorial influence to make major cultural change as individuals. Millions of women asked for “the Rachel” but I’ve yet to hear of anyone asking for “an Amy” when addressing their hair styling professional. How depressing. Not really. Together, we are quite powerful. The problem with “together” is that it is made up of a zillion individual decisions that get collectively balanced on one accounting sheet. So even though everything you do matters, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. You have to push through “I’m just one person and I don’t matter” toward “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  (Thanks Edward Everett Hale). From the time I struck out on my own and had a social consciousness, I’ve done my best to do things that matter in directions that are important to me. Here is a short and incomplete list:

This is the thing I do This is why I do it
 I buy music directly from independent musicians. If they release “best of” or compilations, I buy them anyway. I don’t get it for free, even if I can. I like new music, I want music to be a viable career so I can continue to enjoy it.
I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I believe in the dignity and worth of workers. I believe people should be fairly paid and fairly treated.
I buy fair trade food when fair trade is an option. The effects of colonialism are not over. Markets like coffee, bananas, chocolate, etc. perpetuate inequities in place since their discovery and again, I believe in the rights of workers to be paid and to be treated fairly.
I don’t attend Michigan Women’s Music Festival or go to shows of performers who play there. The festival is not-inclusive/hostile to trans women. I believe in a feminism that embraces all kinds of women.
If I have relative privilege over a group of people and they ask me to use/not use particular language, I respect their request. I believe it is right to listen to actual authorities (i.e. people with lived experience) on what feels offensive and what doesn’t. And, it isn’t that hard to be nice to people.
I vote in every election no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Too many people have fought and died for the right to vote or are denied the right to vote to take this responsibility lightly. Plus, it’s really empowering.
I spend more than half of my discretionary money locally. Spending locally preserves local economy, creates a stronger job base and is overall a more pleasant and rewarding experience.

That’s just a short list. But here’s one important addition:
I don’t give ANY MONEY to anyone who harms women or to anyone who has harmed women in the past without accountability or reformation.

Say what?

When you give your dollars to misogynists, you are indirectly funding misogyny. It’s like shopping at a store that makes significant political donations to causes or politicians that are anathema to your values. It can be tiresome to look into every purchase to make sure some of your money isn’t going to nefarious and harmful stuff but think about the last time you debated about whether or not to pay for an app on your mobile device. If you’re like many of us, you really hemmed and hawed over a <$5 purchase. You thought through if it was really worth it, if you’d use it, if you could get it for free (or a free alternative). That’s a lot of thinking for <$5. You have the capacity to think about this stuff, you just probably don’t. Because. And here it is friends, our old pal, PRIVILEGE. When you are part of a privileged group, one of the benefits is that you don’t have to think about the ways in which your spending habits may be funding those who are against you. Because, no one is really actively campaigning against you or your rights.

Now, I name some names:

This is an incomplete list of people who will not be getting a penny of my money: Woody Allen, Mike Krahulik, Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Robin Thicke, Hugh Hefner, Hooters, Bill Maher, Adam Carolla, Dr. Drew, Seth MacFarlane, Adam Levine, non-unionized strip clubs, pretty much all “shock jocks,” (Yeah, that includes Howard Stern. It includes some local DJs who refer to female sports fans as “pinkhats” as a way to say women are incapable of being knowledgeable sports fans), and anyone who makes casual rape jokes without taking any accountability.

This is not a witch hunt. This is not censorship.  This is in the same category as not giving a single hard-earned feminist, queer cent to Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A or Urban Outfitters or Domino’s with my feminist, queer money. This is me saying that I am never, ever going to knowingly give money to a misogynist. I am never going to knowingly support a misogynist lifestyle. I don’t put people on this list lightly, for one minor mis-step in judgment. I don’t put people on this list who behaved deplorably but demonstrate that they can learn from their mistakes, listen to criticism, educate themselves and grow as people. We’re all entitled to do that. If any of those guys on the list want to take some accountability and show that they are working on their misogyny, I’m open to reconsidering. The list isn’t static. Although honestly, and again, depressingly, this list tends to grow rather than contract. In this regard, world suck is kind of on the increase.

While discussing this topic, my friend Cristy (who helped with many of the names on the list above) said it quite succinctly, ” it’s impossible to abstain from all misogynist media and still find entertainment.” This is depressingly true. Just because someone isn’t on this list does not mean he gets a feminist clean bill of health – it just means that his misogyny is … I can’t believe I’m even going to write this … at a tolerable enough level to still be able to engage in the medium. Cristy also reminded me of an example of someone who came off the list: The Beastie Boys. They owned up to the fact that “Girls” was a misogynist song. They apologized. They stopped playing it at concerts. And after they did that, they started calling out other musicians, holding them accountable for the content of their work.

I’m not telling you where to draw a line so much as I am saying that I you SHOULD draw a line. You SHOULD consider where your money goes, how it’s used and if it matches your values. If you value women and feminism, part of doing the work is not funneling money to people working against your values.

Wait. Aren’t you going too far? Can’t you separate the artist (the person with the shitty behavior) from the art?

I suppose I could. I choose not to. I hate to violate Godwin’s law but Hitler was, by many accounts, a fairly gifted artist. Had I been alive at the time, I’d have had no interest in seeing an exhibit of his paintings. It’s true that horrible people doing horrible things can create amazing works of art (The Great Pyramids at Giza, anyone?). It’s also true that I’d rather not financially support horrible people when there are plenty of non-horrible people who are also making amazing works of art.

Musicians, actors, celebrities etc. who become famous because of their personality, their charisma. etc. are in essence selling themselves. By selling themselves, part of what you’re buying is who they are as a person. I’m encouraging you to make conscious choices about who you’re buying.

I know. You hate this. Too bad.

Right now, you’re resisting me. You’re thinking things like: it’s no big deal, you’re making too much out of it, you’re being too sensitive, it’s just a song/movie/TV show, etc. That’s your privilege talking. I need you to move past that and DO THE WORK. I know I’ve said it a zillion times but doing the work is hard. If you really care about our culture, about shifting toward a truly egalitarian world, you need to do the work – you need to be one person who will not refuse to do the something that you can do. Even if you don’t want to, this is something you can do.

Extra Credit:

But Blurred Lines is so catchy even though it’s rapey. It’s so dancey, I just wanna  … well … I give you these instead. You’re welcome:

Even the majority of teenagers can see that Blurred Lines is fucked up:

Want to keep a little less money flowing from the Koch Brothers to their agenda? There’s an app for that.

Here’s a little help spending your money a bit more progessively (if you’re into that sort of thing): http://moleprogressive.blogspot.com/2011/01/liberal-shoppingconsumer-guide.html

Feminist parents, need a shopping guide for kid stuff? Here you go: http://tiredfeminist.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/a-feminist-parents-gift-guide/

Beyond NOT giving your money to misogynists, if you actually want to FUND FEMINISM, you should start thinking about your budget for charitable donations and funnel some of that money toward feminist organizations doing work that aligns with your values.

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