By Lizzie Kirshenbaum
Black mini-skirt, cropped blazer, metallic leggings: $54.99 plus a bit of scripture. Most Forever 21 shoppers enthused by the store’s low prices and trendy merchandise fail to notice what is written on the bottom of their yellow shopping bags: “John 3:16.” This frequently referenced Biblical passage is representative of the owners’ religious beliefs, but is this the universal belief among all Forever 21 customers?
In today’s world the power of the dollar holds equal if not greater strength than the power of the vote. While individuals may be subjected to a range of media propaganda and scandals concerning political candidates, similar information on a company is not as highly publicized. But when I noticed this imprint on the bottom of my shopping bag I felt my personal values had been infringed. As a consumer I do not care to have my own beliefs or ideologies influenced by the stores in which I shop.
Some people may be hesitant to order from Domino’s because of the high calorie count in the pizza, but they should also be wary of Domino’s connections to interest groups. Tom Monaghan, the original owner of Domino’s, publicly made financial contributions to interest groups like Right to Life and Operation Rescue. While this situation is different from that of Forever 21 in that the owner’s decisions are unrelated to the company, it still may be disconcerting to know that the slice of pizza you’re eating is contributing to an organization that seeks to eliminate the choice of abortion. Although Monaghan sold the company in 1998 and none of its profits are going to such campaigns anymore, other companies are proceeding with similar political donations.
Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves Fitness is a well-known supporter of radical pro-life groups like Operation Save America. Similar to Monaghan’s contributions, his monetary support came from the profits of his company, not a direct contribution from Curves itself. Individuals are entitled to the freedom to spend their money where they please, but as long as Gary Heavin continues donating his profits to Operation Save America, mine will not be spent on a membership at Curves.
A more recent and well-known consumer controversy lies within financial contributions to political candidates stemming directly from companies. Target’s donation of $150,000 and Best Buy’s contribution of $100,000 to Minnesota candidate for governor Tom Emmer has stirred immense anger and conflict in the LGBT community. Unlike the situations of Tom Monaghan and Gary Heavin, this is a direct contribution.
Many will defend these political contributions as a corporation’s right to choose where it donates its own money. But perhaps one should look at it from a different angle: if I would not vote for Tom Emmer why would I support him financially? It is commonly argued that an individual vote holds minimal power, but thousands of dollars in donations are certainly effective, especially with the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. the FEC, entitling corporations to give unlimited funds to political candidates. A large-scale boycott of a company could have a profound effect on that business’s income and therefore curb its ability to make such donations.
After World War II many people faced moral conflicts when buying German-made products like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen automobiles. These companies closely associated with Hitler’s genocide have since made reparations, yet today many people still remain adamant in their decisions not to contribute to their financial gains.
Government and business are arguably the two most powerful entities across the globe. It is essential that consumers enlighten themselves on what a business does with its profits or how it relays information to its customers. Many individuals are inadvertently funding massive organizations they would not ordinarily support. While I respect the values of the owners of Forever 21, I prefer my jeans without the proselytism.