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).
'Girl power' has been co-opted from having the power to create change to having the power to consume.
Black Friday doesn’t just mean shopping, then, it means competition. To be successful we’re told that women must revel in pushing other shoppers out of the way and grabbing what is rightfully theirs. This is the adult version of girl fighting, except this time it’s not about boys, it’s about products. And the underlying message? The only way to be happy this holiday is to buy things, spend more money, and be first in line on Black Friday.
Today is boot camp for all of you shoppers. This holiday season, it’s more important than ever that we tackle the stores with a critical eye, since it seems like companies are always ramping up their attempts to sexualize, demean and otherwise alienate young women shoppers. From ads that use the bodies of women and girls to sell products to products that explicitly tell us we should value looks over minds (JC Penney’s “too pretty to do homework” shirt, anyone?), it’s time for girls everywhere to learn the ins and outs of critical, active shopping. Join us with an inquiring mind and a willingness to learn, and at the end of this crash course, you’ll be able to complete your shopping with ease.
Click through and learn why active shopping is so important, how to critically read advertisements, how to talk back to companies that are doing things you don’t like, and where to find alternatives to mass retailers who sell women’s bodies alongside their products.