Why campaigns like #BoycottRalphLauren or #BoycottLLBean are not a great idea

Why campaigns like #BoycottRalphLauren or #BoycottLLBean are not a great idea
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk along the Inauguration Day parade route. Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk along the Inauguration Day parade route. Evan Vucci/AP
opinion
Mic invites contributors and staff to offer commentary and context about news and timely issues.

Usually when a first lady wears a designer outfit on Inauguration Day, that designer's life changes forever — for the better.

Think of when Michelle Obama chose the relatively unknown Canadian designer Jason Wu for her first inaugural ball in 2009, or when Hillary Clinton chose the little-known Sarah Phillips for her gown in 1993. The designers' careers from then on were bolstered with the inauguration and outfitting a first lady. 

But when Melania Trump chose Ralph Lauren on Inauguration Day 2017, the reaction was the exact opposite. 

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk the Inauguration Day parade.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk the Inauguration Day parade. Evan Vucci/AP

Once Lauren was ID'd as the designer of her powder blue ode to Jackie Kennedy, people called for a boycott and quickly got #BoycottRalphLauren trending on Twitter. 

This is a trend we've seen already in response to the Trump administration and its actions. When people caught wind that the granddaughter of the founder of the outdoors brand L.L. Bean had been a major Trump contributor — and then Trump tweeted in support of the brand — people called for a boycott. 

And when a senior official over at New Balance said something pro-Trump — and then neo-Nazis announced that New Balance sneakers were the "official shoes of white people" — there was a call to boycott them too. 

Additionally, there's an entire movement called #GrabYoWallet that encourages people not to buy from any brand or store that has aligned itself with the Trump administration. 

But here's the thing: When there are so many proactive things you could be doing to help the causes you see most in peril right now — women's rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom — boycotting a major company is really nothing but a passive conscience-clearer. 

Sure, you're vowing not to buy anything from companies like Ralph Lauren or L.L. Bean, but doing that alone is not benefitting anyone but you and your own conscience. It's not any more proactive than silently wearing a safety pin. These are, after all, giant corporations with thousands of employees and you vowing not to buy from them — or not to buy from them again — isn't helping people in need in any way. 

Another key point here: Lauren didn't just outfit Melania Trump on Inauguration Day, but Hillary Clinton as well. 

Further, it's not like he was gushing about the opportunity.

"With the historic swearing-in of her husband, Donald J. Trump, as the 45th president of the United States, the first lady-elect will become America’s new first lady wearing an American designer who transformed American fashion, Ralph Lauren," a Ralph Lauren spokesperson told Women's Wear Daily

He was being as unbiased and nonpartisan as he possibly could, given the circumstances. Plus, it's not like Ralph Lauren is a small company that could be taken down by a few hundred or even a few thousand people vowing to never buy from them again. 

According to the New York Stock Exchange, Ralph Lauren is doing just fine, regardless of the boycott or not. In fact, post-Inauguration, they saw an uptick in sales.

In a time when calls for action are being met with millions of donations to places like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, maybe a better call for those concerned about Trump's actions these first few days of his presidency should be not to just boycott companies, but to take the money you'd spend at places like New Balance and L.L. Bean and donate it directly to places that need it most. 

That way, people aren't just grabbing their wallet and keeping it close to them, but putting their dollars toward progress.