When people refuse to buy something, or buy product B instead of product A for what they believe to be political purposes, they might affect the bottom line of a company. They might even provoke that company to make changes to their products or practices. That’s great! But what they’re also doing, and what is so dangerous about telling young people that “voting with your dollars” is the most important thing they can do, is leaving the bulk of the power in the hands of those companies. This limits our own power—our power to create and to innovate and to call for new opportunities and experiences—to the power to consume (or not consume). It takes all of our experiences and lives and wants and needs and desires and possibilities and puts them into a dollar, ultimately conceding that yes, the best we can do is give other people our money and hope for the best.
Telling people to “vote with their pocketbooks” reinforces the idea that money and power are irrevocably intertwined. We shouldn’t look to those among us who have the most disposable income or the biggest advertising budget or the largest market research team to be setting the tone of our cultural landscape. We should be setting that tone ourselves. Not all of us have money, but all of us have voices, and it would do us well to encourage young people to develop and strengthen their voices rather than wait until they have enough money to be counted (a day that, for many, will never come).
“They are completely different formulations,” said one spokesperson of two antiperspirants with the exact same percentages of the exact same ingredients.
From the moment a baby’s genitalia is categorized, everything else in his or her life is also categorized. Suddenly boys are swimming in an ocean of blue, while girls are transported into the Pepto Bismol world of princessified clothes, sparkly toys that don’t do anything, make-up for preschoolers, and extra-special girl Happy Meals. Girls fall down a rabbit hole of beauty propaganda from which they may never emerge, while boys are shepherded down their own toy aisles where the adventure games, science kits, and all the colors of the rainbow, except pink, have gone to live. Adults who are naïve to these issues reinforce the cycle that the marketers have set in motion, making sure that they buy “boy” or “girl” clothes and toys. Just so there is no confusion, these are all labeled and occupy separate sections of stores and catalogs. Company profit doubles, while girls’ possibilities shrink.