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YOWELL: Put your money where your mouth is

Conflicts in consumer habits and political, social and economic values leads to avoidable cognitive dissonance

<p>The bottom line is that you cannot call yourself an activist or ally if you knowingly only do it when it is convenient.</p>

The bottom line is that you cannot call yourself an activist or ally if you knowingly only do it when it is convenient.

Reconciling my go-getter, social justice ideals and the comforts of products from businesses with practices I oppose has wreaked havoc on my psyche. I am a regular Amazon customer. My seemingly uncontroversial music addiction is being fueled by a platform under fire for its alleged enablement of misinformation. I still run into Chick-fil-A for a quick meal, walk into a Starbucks before the locally owned coffee shop right next door and occasionally ignore the claims of unethical sourcing if it is against my favorite brand. All of these things bother me. I do not morally support companies that ignore climate change, worker’s rights, humanitarian issues or social equity — however, I have continued to support such businesses and corporations economically through my purchases, subscriptions and brand loyalty. The issue is not that I am unaware of the relatively large discrepancies with my beliefs and my actions, but rather, I am afraid my life will somehow be worse off without some of the businesses I have listed above. This very first-world, privileged stance is alarming. Today, I am hoping to walk you through how I changed my behaviors in the hopes that you will too. 

The bottom line is that you cannot call yourself an activist or ally if you knowingly only do it when it is convenient. It is obviously impossible for someone to know every decision, problematic or not, a company or business makes. It also remains unclear if people should align every action in their life with their beliefs — that debate is too lengthy to fit into the confines of this short article. Yet, one concrete piece of knowledge is that many people hold beliefs that directly conflict with the places they give their business, and they often do so knowingly, ignoring the cognitive dissonance that arises as a result. Therefore, if you are like me, and you pride yourself on practicing what you preach, specifically in regard to issues of social justice, you have likely considered the implications of your actions and wondered if they need to align with your values.

It was easy for me to support the strikes of Kellogg and John Deere, as their products do not exist in my daily life. Additionally, the current boycott on Carhartt merchandise has not affected my mentality on the brand since it represents an apparent rise in conservative cancel culture. Those against vaccine mandates are burning their Carhartt products due to the company’s refusal to remove their mandate — since I support vaccine mandates, I wear my Carhartt beanies with pride. It is other discrepancies, those so ingrained in my daily life, that I find difficult to come to terms with. I listen to Spotify while I get ready in the morning, drive to work, walk to class and even while I sleep. I truly do not go a day without the platform — yet, I would support a full boycott of its streaming service should they not prohibit Joe Rogan’s espousal of misinformation. But would I participate in said boycott?

I have come to the conclusion that activists and allies have a line where their activism or allyship stops. It would be truly exhausting to flesh out the details of every CEO of every coffee shop, retailer and app — and if you do, then I commend you. However, the reality is that many of us simply do not have the time or energy in our daily lives to conduct such research. But, when the information is readily available and clear, we need to take note of it. If a brand or company conflicts with our values, we need to seriously reflect on what that means for us individually, and if we believe in pursuing equitable outcomes for wider populations, then we need to reflect on the implications of our actions more broadly. For example, if you are a committed activist of LGBTQ+ equality and continue to frequent Chick-fil-A, then you should reflect on why. Likewise, if you adamantly support scientific inquiry but continue to source your music from Spotify, then you should critically analyze your continued subscription to the streaming service. 

While many do not give any thought to the brands and companies they give their business to, those of us who live our lives claiming to pursue social, economic or political causes need to. So, I challenge you to ask yourself if the brands you support believe in the causes you fight for. If the answer is no, ask yourself if your business could be taken elsewhere, if your convenience is more important than the cause, if your comfortability is worth the consequence and if you would boycott or avoid the business were it not a part of your daily routine. If those questions make you uncomfortable, I challenge you to ask yourself why. If you do not like your answers to them, I challenge you to change your habits accordingly. I urge you to critically consider where your business and money go, and I hope you will walk the extra 40 feet to support local businesses and find another restaurant to purchase a chicken sandwich from — I know I will. While we all have limits to our activism and allyship, I urge you to identify yours and challenge you to push those boundaries. We can all be more ethical consumers — are you willing to join me?

Hailey Yowell is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.