You aren’t a bad person for consuming from “problematic” companies

All companies are bad in their own way, and personal boycotts aren’t the only form of activism.



Screenshot of SHEIN’s swastika necklace, which caused controversy on social media.

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

Boycotting as a form of protest is a well-known art. You find out a company has done something you don’t support, so you decide not to give them your money. Simple. Fast food restaurant Chick-Fil-A has been boycotted for their homophobia, online clothing store SHEIN has been boycotted for antisemitism and islamophobia in its products, such as selling a swastika necklace and claiming that it was the Hindu symbol; still, both companies remain successful. Boycotting by yourself is a personal decision because it’s not an end-all-be-all solution for progress; it’s the first step.

The whole point of a boycott is that it is a mass effort as it’s only effective when it actually causes a dip in sales. Unless one is planned and organized and people actually participate, these personal boycotts are less about actually making a change and more about deciding what your principles for life are.

A devil’s advocate may want to argue that the whole point of these tiny protests is just to make the protestor feel better about themselves. To that I say, who cares? Is it truly so bad to want to see yourself as a good person and to try to match that image? Your intentions don’t counteract that you’re helping the world around you. However, there is a danger when these tiny protests are the only form of activism you’re doing.

Here, we fall into the area of performative activism; aka only acting one way because it looks good but not truly committing to the cause. If you’re avoiding shopping at SHEIN because you heard they were antisemitic and everyone else is boycotting them too, but then you turn around make a joke about the lizard people secretly controlling the world, then you need to re-evaluate your actions. (Note: the lizard people conspiracy/joke has its roots in antisemitism, as do all conspiracy theories about a secret group of elites controlling the world.) Commit to the principles you’re following in these protests, and apply them in all aspects of life.

I am not going to call you a bad person for eating at Chick-Fil-A, nor will I call you a bad person for shopping at SHEIN or other “problematic” companies; I don’t think you are a bad person for doing either of those. (Exception: if you buy the explicitly antisemitic and islamophobic items from SHEIN I think you are a bad person.) If you believe that boycotting those companies will do nothing more than inconvenience you and won’t help the cause, then go ahead and do what you want. Choose to help in some way; however you feel you are able to.

Just because the world is vast and filled with too much pain for one person to heal alone does not mean you can sit back and do nothing to alleviate it. What matters is that you try, even if we don’t all try in the same way. Eat at this place instead of the other, shop at this one instead of that one—I’m sure they all have their sins. They’re not inescapable because that would be excusing them, but you can’t change a society without first participating it.