It has been brought to the wedding community's attention recently that Kevin Swan, the founder of KISS Books, has been using his personal Twitter account to spread hateful, bigoted, Islamophobic, misogynist sentiments. You can find (can be glitchy), but please be advised that it includes hateful, triggering content. We encourage anyone who has worked with or is considering working with KISS Books to compare his current, cleaned-up feed (post-controversy) with the cached version (available through http://cachedview.com/) and draw your own conclusions about what kind of people and businesses you choose to support with your spending power. We believe that the personal is political, and we inadvertently support the ideas that we financially back.
In times of inequality and injustice, posting our views on social media is important, but it is not enough. In addition to taking an active part in conversations and actions in your communities, today we're making one more recommendation: put your money where your mouth is.
The reality of living in a capitalist country is that little changes without money behind it. As consumers we have immense power; we can force serious change by using that power to support businesses and vendors who stand with our social justice values and boycott those who don’t.
The wedding industry exchanges $300 billion dollars each year between couples and vendors. That is a whole lot of consumer power, and we could be doing a lot more to be thoughtful about who gets that money.
As a consumer, whether you're spending money on a wedding, everyday clothes, your news media, your entertainment, or your groceries you have a great deal of power to make change by being cognizant of who you give your money to.
Here are seven things Catalyst readers and supporters can do to support social justice by hijacking capitalism to make positive change.
1. Don’t be silent about your views. Be clear on social media about where you stand. You don’t have to say much. You can just say #BlackLivesMatter. You can just say their names. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Kajieme Powell, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown (to name a few). Or take it a step further and be clear about your values in your "about me" or mission statement. You might be surprised about how making a statement makes you stand out from the competition. More and more businesses are using social media as a way to conduct market intelligence research. We don’t like to think about businesses scraping data about us from social media, but that’s the reality of the digital world. If enough of us show our support through these channels, business will see that data and will react to it.
2. Support businesses owned by people of color, women, and minorities. As long as white men in this country control the majority of the wealth, there will continue to be racial and gender inequality. Do your part to help change this imbalance by buying from businesses owned by marginalized demographics. Here's a handy list for you.
3. Do your homework. Investigate companies and their views before you give them your money. (For instance, Catalyst used to buy mailers from Uline until we learned that they backed an anti-gay PAC.) If you are working with a small business, you will likely have an easier time with this because you can reach out to business owners directly. Ask them if they support Black Lives Matter, gender equality, and marriage equality. If they are photographers, look at their body of work and assess whether they feature diverse couples. If they are a venue or sell wedding attire, look to see what couples or models they include on their site. If you see only white straight couples, ask them why. Their response will tell you all you need to know.
4. Be clear on why you choose not to work with a particular company. Confrontation is hard, but if you don’t communicate why you’re walking away then you are missing an opportunity to change someone’s mind, or at least to make it clear that their silence or unwillingness to support diversity and equality may have consequences for their business.
5. Promote businesses that support equality. Tell your friends to work with them. Tell your family to work with them. Write to blogs and publications and tell them to feature these businesses.
6. Try to avoid reading blogs or publications that don't support equality. If a wedding blog doesn't feature diverse couples, then stop reading. If a news outlet says #AllLivesMatter, walk away. Blogs and news media sites make money by trading readers for advertising income. Every time you read a blog post you are using your consumer power. Make sure you’re using it for good.
7. Donate to groups that already working hard to make change. Even when you aren’t engaging with another business, give your money to groups that have been working hard to make change for years. Give to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU, or Black Lives Matter themselves.
This won’t be a fast process. It takes time, but using your power as a consumer can have a major impact. It's time we make capitalism work for us.
Jen Siomacco is the Creative Director at Catalyst Wedding Co. and also runs her own jewelry design company A Pocket Novel. She wants her three cat daughters to grow up and live in a world were rape culture doesn't exist.