Leibee: We can separate politics and products

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

At least once in your life, you have likely purchased a product from a company, brand or person who you did not morally agree with.

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At a certain point, we can separate the products we buy from the political values of the companies that make them. I’m not saying we should ignore the fact that some companies are openly homophobic or racist, but you can purchase products from them without condoning their values and morals.

The most obvious example of this dilemma is with the company Chick-fil-A, which is known to be openly homophobic, yet many people still eat there.

It’s a difficult situation — you might love a product or even consider it a staple in your life, but the name behind it has been known to be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. In instances where you know the history of a product is questionable, it’s up to you if you want to separate the products you buy from the company’s social and political values. However, you likely will not, nor should you have to, check the history of every product you buy.

Just because you enjoy and support a product does not mean you condone the behavior and values of the people or company behind it.

If you look at the website for Ben and Jerry’s, they have all their political and social values laid out and explained. When you buy their product, you know exactly what kind of company your money is going to and what issues you are supporting. However, not all companies have this information laid out, and some companies are not open about their politics at all.

A recent major controversy has been about the famous makeup producer Jeffree Star. Videos surfaced years ago of him making racist comments. While Star has apologized and recognized his actions since then, people are still skeptical of buying his products because they don’t want to support someone that said things like that. 

However, there might be others who — while they don’t want to support a racist person — still enjoy Star’s products and the quality of his makeup separate from who he is as a person. Some say you cannot separate Star and his values from his products; others say you can.

This is a moral dilemma, but ultimately, the decision of how to spend your money is up to you, and you shouldn’t be shamed for that decision.

Just because you enjoy and support a product does not mean you condone the behavior and values of the people or company behind it. You can buy a product because you like the quality of it without it meaning that you support or encourage the behaviors of its creator. 

This goes back to the age-old debate: Can you separate the art from the artist? While this is a question with no right answer, it’s similar to the question: Can you separate products from politics?

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Everyone will have their own ideas on this, but it’s ultimately an individual decision, and no one should be shamed for their decision either way.

The products you purchase don’t have to be a reflection of who you are as a person. They don’t have to have meaning. They can just be the products you enjoy because of the quality, having nothing to do with where you stand politically.

If most people were truly honest, they likely wouldn’t stop buying the products they rely on and have an attachment to, even if they found out they disagree with the company morally or if the company said horrible things in the past. Continuing to buy those products doesn’t mean anything more than you enjoy the quality of the physical product.

Yes, we can make it political because most things in life can be twisted into a political or social perspective — but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to be wary of where your products are coming from and the companies behind them, that is okay. If you choose not to, that is okay too.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.