Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why I Don't
Shop at Target

As I've gotten older, I've become more aware of societal issues that affect portions of society who don't fit in with "the norm" be it through race, religion or sexual preference. I used to just go about my life oblivious to these things because they really didn't affect me. But, seven years ago I became aware of an organization known as the American Family Association when they launched a boycott campaign against Disney/ABC after the premiere of Desperate Housewives. They felt the show was immoral and threatened to boycott all ABC programming and Disney theme parks. They also went after the show's advertisers, a few of whom (most notably Kellogg) pulled advertising to appease the AFA ... temporarily, at least. At the time, I thought it was silly to go nuts over a show like Desperate Housewives when there were plenty more shows on TV that I found more offensive because they glorified violence. It's still okay for children to watch shows where people are getting shot, maimed and tortured but they have to be protected from normal, human behavior!

I've kept tabs on the AFA over the years and I've seen them go after other major corporations like WalMart (they boycotted them on a Black Friday weekend over WalMart's support of some GLBT organization, WalMart's profits were down 3% that weekend from the previous year, WalMart pulled their support for the organization, the boycott was dropped), Heinz (they forced Heinz to pull a commercial from British television that they claimed portrayed a same sex couple, but they just didn't get the joke), and McDonald's (after 6 months of standing up to a boycott over McD's diversity policies, they finally backed down and pulled support for various GLBT organizations and sent an openly gay executive to head up McDonald's Canada). It really upset me that this little group of people, which at the time represented about 1% of the total US population, had so much power over these large multi-national corporations. The AFA also makes it a habit of bombarding politicians with phone calls and emails to make sure they don't support any law-making efforts the AFA is against (they hate Obama and everything he's been trying to do since taking office). My reaction to these companies that don't have the backbone to stand up to this group is to stop spending my money with them. I haven't shopped at WalMart in years (and there are plenty more reasons not to shop there besides the AFA), I have not eaten at McDonald's since they caved, and I try not to purchase Heinz products (although they have so many different brand names it's really hard to not pick up a Heinz product unknowingly from time to time).

Flash forward to 2010's political campaigns. Having watched the AFA stick their noses into various political issues, I watched the various campaigns across the country and became aware of a new law that many organizations like the AFA did not want passed - the campaign donation disclosure law. In Minnesota, any campaign donations made by large corporations were made general knowledge and it turned out that two of my favorite stores, Target and Best Buy, had made sizable donations to the campaign of Tom Emmer, a conservative Republican who promised these corporations massive tax breaks if elected. Of course, a large business like those would jump on any bandwagon that promised them tax breaks, but they failed to look any further into Emmer's agenda - he is not a believer in equal rights or same-sex marriage, and he has ties to a Christian rock band that advocates violence towards gay people. Not only did Target as a corporation donate $150,000 to Emmer's campaign, but the CEO made a personal donation of $10,000 (Best Buy's donation totaled $100,000).  It also came to light that Target donated to more than just Emmer's campaign.

These donations created a firestorm within the GLBT community and its supporters and I sent emails to both companies letting them know that I would not spend my money with them if they were going to use the profits for such donations. The reason these donations caused so much concern was because both companies, up to that point, had a 100% rating with the Human Rights Campaign (both were pulled from their shopping guide but have been reinstated with an 85% rating, which I think is still too high given the circumstances). They both have excellent diversity programs in place within the company as well as in their communities, but making a donation to someone like Emmer basically undid all of that goodwill. The HRC tried to negotiate with both companies to make donations of equal value to GLBT-friendly candidates but both refused. Neither would apologize for their actions, except in Target's case the CEO issued an internal apology to the employees for putting them on the hot seat but nothing else.

Many people from all walks of life have taken a stand for what they believe in and have stopped shopping at Target and Best Buy. Target knows it's lost a huge chunk of money with these boycotts and now they are shamefully, transparently trying to win back the GLBT community and its supporters by making deals with various famous faces. I was appalled to see The Ellen Degeneres Show promoting Target during Christmas with various gift card giveaways. I was really surprised to see newly out Ricky Martin selling his new CD exclusively through Target. It was even more upsetting this week to see that Lady Gaga also had an exclusive deal with Target to sell a special edition of her upcoming CD and with a pre-order people were able to download the new single for free. I'm a big Lady Gaga fan and I applaud all of her efforts to support the GLBT community, which has supported her from the beginning, especially on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal issue. But inking a deal with Target just makes it seem like she used the gays to get to the top and now she will pander to everyone else just to make a few extra bucks, regardless of who she pisses off. Well, people are pissed off about this Target deal. Will it be enough for her to make a statement or take a stand? So far, no. I'm sure she didn't make the deal herself - all of that is left in the hands of the record label - but she has enough power to say no to something like this. It's so upsetting that I don't even know if I will buy the new CD from any source, but I do know that until Target and Best Buy publicly make amends for those donations and until these other companies stop letting themselves be bullied by groups like the AFA, none of them will be getting any money from me.

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