Jane Long, 33, typically spends just over $700 every two weeks on groceries. Before, she was spending that money at Walmart.
But after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, Long — who works as a stay-at-home mom and lives hours away from the nearest in-person protest — mounts her own form of protest: She’s only going to shopping locally.
“There are so many benefits to shopping locally in your area. In the long run, that’s something we should be doing,” Long said. “But affecting the revenue streams of the big corporations that put all that money into politics, if enough people did it, it would cause change and change.”
Long is a mother of two and also had two second-trimester induced miscarriages, both of which required abortions. She said that without them she wouldn’t be alive.
Long is one of many Americans who feel disappointed with the current state of the country. With no policy in sight to codify Roe v. Wade, some take matters into their own hands and wield power over what they can control: their wallets.
With the rise of social media, boycotts have become more effective and widespread, according to Caroline Heldman, director of the department of critical theory and social justice at Occidental College and author of a book on the subject.
“Big companies now have divisions that naturally respond to the commercial threat of potential boycotts, and skyrocket marketing spend,” Heldman said. “For most of American history, most corporations sat on the fringes of politics because they could. Today there is much more public pressure to take political positions. .”
An Insider investigation found that a slew of big companies — including Walmart, Amazon and AT&T — paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers responsible for the “trigger laws.”
“It’s a capitalist country,” Long said. “Don’t let bad people get what they want most from you.”
“People really find power in their dollar”
Shelbi Orme, a millennial content creator, first heard of the idea of an economic boycott in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade on TikTok.
As a sustainability expert, Orme is no stranger to the idea of a boycott or strategic spending — it’s something environmentalists have been doing for “decades.”
“Essentially what we’re seeing now, after Roe v. Wade, is people waking up to realize that not only are these multi-billion dollar corporations supporting this system that we live in which is clearly corrupt, but they’re giving also literally money to politicians to fund things that are in direct conflict with our rights,” Orme said.
Throughout her years as a content creator, Orme has noticed that “people really find power in their dollar.” Especially with decisions like Citizens United, which bolstered “corporate persona” and allowed corporations to pour money into political campaigns.
“It really feels like, especially in our time in the culture, that’s the only power we have — at least on a regular basis,” Orme said.
There’s a long history of Americans turning to consumer activism “when they lack power in formal political channels,” according to Heldman. This includes everything from the Boston Tea Party to the wide variety of boycotts leading to the Civil Rights Act.
Recent Supreme Court rulings “run counter to mainstream public opinion,” Heldman said. This includes overthrowing Roe, where, according to a Gallup poll, 58% of Americans did not want him overthrown.
“Given the partisan gridlock in the Senate and the president’s limited power to enact policy, many Americans feel deeply helpless,” Heldman said. “They are turning to consumer activism as a political tool because the political system does not represent their interests.”
From Roe V. Wade to a Vegetable Garden
When people lose their rights, “they start looking for ways to reclaim all independence and control,” said Alliyah Perry, a farmer from Washington state. “And one of the biggest ways is their food.”
Bartering can help bring back a sense of control, Perry said, though she noted that you’re technically expected to pay taxes on bartering. According to a 2016 thesis by Jordan Travis Radke of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, growing food and trading goods is part of the “homesteader” lifestyle adopted by Perry, which can be considered a social or political dissent.
Perry is also a gardening consultant. She said that in June she began to see an increase in interest from young women in their 20s and 30s. Two potential clients suggested to her that the Roe V. Wade decision motivated them to take up gardening, she said. People want to “disconnect and not rely too much on the system in general,” she added.
Kelly Krugman is one of them. A millennial who works in public relations and moonlights as a progressive TikToker, she’s been challenging corporate power for years, including taking part in Occupy Wall Street in Los Angeles.
After the cancellation of Roe v. Wade, Krugman made a video criticizing the futility of what some TikTokers have called “No Buy July,” that is, cutting or stopping July 3-5 spending to protest abortion restrictions. A user in the comments section introduced him to Progressive Shopper, which breaks down brands’ political contributions.
“You start asking yourself, ‘Why am I contributing and who am I contributing to,'” she said. “It all comes down to money.”
She researched where she shops and eats on Progressive Shopper. Now Krugman is skipping the Taco Bell Doritos taco she ate throughout her pregnancy and does most of her shopping at Costco, which she says has a good track record of political donations, employees and of advantages. She said her main hope was that boycotts would help people communicate their views to businesses.
Krugman also seeks to grow his own food.
“Why doesn’t everyone know how to grow a tomato? said Krugman. “Most of us sit on some kind of land where we could grow things.”
Heldman believes consumer activism “will play a key role” in politics in the years to come, especially as Americans “become frustrated with a political system that does not reflect majority rule.”
“I don’t see us being able to take down a monster like Amazon,” said Orme, the sustainability expert. “I don’t think the United States or just Western culture in general is ready to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change. So ultimately what we’re really hoping for is bringing just enough people to care for the politicians to listen to us.”