Most boycotts are unethical; the threatened Target boycott is worse than most.
Target is one of the largest American general-merchandise retailers, with more than 1,900 stores nationwide. Every year, for more than a decade, it has offered products celebrating Pride Month. This year, taking advantage of the pro-trans fad, it is selling female bathing suits with a “tuck” feature to accommodate biological men identifying as women—you know, like Lia Thomas.
However, such products are legal, and if Target offers them and customers buy them, it is not the business or concern of customers who don’t want to buy them. Yet this year’s Target collection has generated threats of a national boycott as well as, according to Target, actions rsiking the safety of its staff. The company told the Wall Street Journal that people have confronted workers in stores, knocked down Pride merchandise displays and put threatening posts on social media using video recorded from inside stores.
Nice. And, as Harry Reid will undoubtedly point out from his current residence in Hell, such intimidation tactics work. Though its CEO has publicly defended the store’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” orientation (or exploitation), Target is removing some of the controversial products, so far encompassing those involving a partnership with the U.K.-based brand Abprallen. Some of the Abprallen pieces that Target was selling include a sweatshirt featuring an image of a snake with the line, “Cure transphobia, not trans people,” as well as a messenger bag that reads, “We belong everywhere.”
If Target is going to pander to certain markets by boasting about its DEI commitment, it should have the integrity to stick to its stated principles when bullies seek to punish it. Unfortunately, almost no big corporations have principles; when profits are threatened, rightly or wrongly, they turn into weenies.
There is nothing unethical or boycott-worthy about a national merchandiser offering niche products that don’t appeal to the majority. Target has not turned itself into a monolithic endorsement of trans-activism (like Bud Light), nor is it a cultural force, like Disney. In those two cases, there are defensible objections to the companies taking sides in the culture wars. Retailers, however, should be able to sell anything that is legal in a free country. People who don’t like a product are free not to buy it. Organizing a boycott or intimidating employees to force Target to embrace a particular ideological agenda is ethically offensive.
If I were going to boycott Target, the reason would be that it doesn’t have the guts to put its money where its mouth is. If you don’t like a T-shirt’s message, don’t buy the T-shirt. Trying to stop someone who likes what’s on the T-shirt from having an opportunity to buy it is an abuse of power, violates the Golden Rule, and constitutes a breach of fairness and respect for individual autonomy.
55 thoughts on “Easy Call: The Target Boycott Is Unethical”
Here is an example of this mentality.
From what I’ve read, most of the outrage is around the line of Trans and gay pride clothing for infants and toddlers.
I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a Target shopper. I don’t care what nonsense they market to adults, but I think it’s creepy to make Trans wear for children. I wouldn’t shop there (if I did previously), because I don’t agree that confusing toddlers is parr of DEI.
This is my understanding, too. It’s the clothing targeted for children that’s at issue.
From all I can discern, there is no “trans wear” for kids. Pro-trans/LGTBQ messaging T-shirts? If the issue is using kids as unknowing billboards for any cause, I’m in agreement. But you can’t object to “Love is Love” baby wear and shrug off a Second Amendment message on the same kinds of clothing.
I can object to love is love not just because it is a meaningless slogan but because the people who express that sentiment have no tolerance for others who do not believe in or embrace the idea of non- binary sexuality or rather peculiar sexual preferences. Until the gay community stops bashing people with religious objections they have no authority to promote the idea that they love trumps hate.
“you can’t object to “Love is Love” baby wear and shrug off a Second Amendment message on the same kinds of clothing”
Wait. Why can’t you object to something you disagree with and shrug off something you agree with?
And why is a Target boycott (or any boycott) inherently unethical?
As I understand it, a boycott is essentially a shunning, a refusal to deal with an entity…like a company.
So, if you don’t want to buy from a company, don’t buy. Motivation is irrelevant.
I get it if you infer that a boycott involves coercion of others or civil disobedience or violence, obviously.
I look at clothing and don’t buy if I see “made in China”. Is that unethical? I don’t think so.
The post was clear. The issue isn’t objecting to one message or the other; the issue is seeking to punish a company for allowing a patron to endorse the message that patron favors. As for boycotts, we’re not talking about individual choices. We’re talking about organized mass boycotts to bully individuals, organizations and corporations into doing what whichever group that can cause the most harm wants. The method is anti-democratic and essentially mob rule in action—unjust, unfair, and destructive.
Jack, you wrote:
“We’re talking about organized mass boycotts to bully individuals, organizations and corporations into doing what whichever group that can cause the most harm wants. The method is anti-democratic and essentially mob rule in action—unjust, unfair, and destructive.”
I do not see how an organized grassroots movement designed to send a clear market message to a commercial entity is anti-democratic. People can choose to join or not join that movement which is what lies at the heart of democracy. No one is advocating violence against customers wanting to buy these goods or the stores that sell them. Comparing the cumulative effects of customer objections to mob rule is hyperbole. No one is advocating laying siege to Target stores or even picketing them.
I would bet that had Target introduced a line of NAZI memorabilia (all legal) in a grand display as consumers walked into the store you would see the same reaction as what is transpiring now. In fact, I would bet that the left would be throwing rocks through Target’s windows. If we believe Target was simply trying to capture added sales, why would it be inappropriate to offer white-pride t-shirts, bathing suits and other merchandise. Based on statements by our president white supremacists are on every corner so the market should be much greater than the LGBT+ market.
The right is constantly being subjected to accusations of transphobia if they are not in lockstep agreement with the LGBTQIA community. Hell, I just typed LGBTQIA in and the computer added community – talk about coercion Who exactly is being coerced into adopting an ideology? Whose State Department decided it would be a grand idea to put pronoun references on the address line of government emails? (and still misgendered both straight and gay people)
The majority of Americans do not care who loves whom. If Hallmark wants to add an LGBT line to its offerings as it has for Black Americans very few will bat an eye. The difference is the constant in-your-face, don’t disagree with us in anyway or we will label you a bigot and work to get you fired, is growing tiresome and if a business firm wants to advance their cause they are free to do so; just as other customers are free to walk away when the firm alters the perception of value the customer receives by patronizing that establishment.
This is a case where, as the left likes to say, speech has consequences.
I agree, Chris. Boycotts were instrumental in ending segregated business practices in the 1950s and 1960s.
It’s still mob rule, particularly since corporations have no core principles. Boycotts are power over reason; their effects and the effects of the mere threats of them warp the culture, free expression and individual choice. They are the automatic weapons in the protest armory, close cousins to strikes. As with all tactics that are unethical, there are exceptions (as in the case of torture), but the starting place has to be that boycotts are preemptively wrong: unfair, abusive, and coercive abuses of power.
What is the difference between individual choice that occurs independently and mob psychology that is predicated on unreasoned emotion?
Boycotts are not a collection of individual choices. If everyone on their own decides that a product is not worth buying, that’s the market system at work. Boycotts are political.
So how do you distinguish between the collection of “everyone who has decided on their own” (which is the market system) and the political boycott (which is mob rule, etc)? What does “decided on their own” consist of? We all live in the same world, hear things, see things, and are influenced in some way or another.But ultimately we decide on our own, don’t we? I just still don’t get where the collection of freethinkers morphs into your concept of a boycott. I’ll leave it at that; I don’t want to be accused of putting words in your mouth (again) as you seem to be (justifiably maybe) sensitive to that.
I am fully aware of how markets work.
Social media influencers be they Dylan Mulvaney or any Kardashian move markets in one direction or another. If sufficient numbers of people generate significant negative buzz on social media that is no different than when the market is moved to reward the firm with added sales.
Target claims it is removing items for employee safety but seems to be relying on a few social media posts and an incident where a display was disrupted to create the impression that this bad behavior is ubiquitous around the nation. This is no different than claiming gays as a group are grooming children.
I am unaware of any nationally organized group calling for boycotts. What we are seeing is an organic response to a poorly considered marketing ploy. Again, using a firm that promotes satanic ideology as the partner to design the gear which includes memes on apparel that say satan loves all was shortsighted at best.
It just seems that when the tables get turned on the left, there supporters scream foul but they are the first to run to the courts to shut down that with which they disagree.
Satanism is nothing but a political ideology centered on anti-religious bigotry, primarily aimed at Christians. If Target wants to make a political statement by promoting anti-religious bigotry, then they should be prepared for the consequences.
I didn’t imply that the post was unclear. Don’t get defensive. What I’m saying is that if I don’t want to buy from Phipps Dept Store because “Phipps is just a bunch of gyps” (per I Love Lucy), then I don’t buy . My choice; we’re agreed. Suppose I tell my friend, and he agrees and tells his friends, and they agree. Well then it’s their choices, no? Sounds like democracy in action. I get your point regarding organization (I think). But boycotts are historically ineffective because of lack of organization. Is there an “organizing” force behind the Bud Light “boycott”? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a crappy product to begin with and few are committed to it. Now if we’re talking about picketing (obviously organized) or product (property) destruction (illegal), then of course that’s unethical. (Parenthetically, I heard there’s a store in Wisconsin that is giving away cases of Bud Light out front for free, and they’re not moving. Democracy or not?)
“the issue is seeking to punish a company for allowing a patron to endorse the message that patron favors”.
What if the message is abhorant? Forget Target, is there no message that would justify an “organized” boycott? Forced Euthanasia, cannibalism, Nazi propaganda?
Nope. If you can organize a boycott against those messages, you can organize one against any message. Each individual can make his or her own choice. Forcing a company or an individual to conform to anyone’s set ideas about what ideas are “right” is anti-democratic.
And “Wait. Why can’t you object to something you disagree with and shrug off something you agree with?” strongly suggests that either my post was unclear to you, or that you were deliberately misrepresenting it, because I wrote nothing close to that. I’m not defensive at all. I just don’t like having words placed in my mouth that never were there.
I agree with you, but am not surprised the bullying is occurring. A couple reasons:
1. People are getting really tired and pissed off at having the Trans fad pushed in their faces from nearly every direction.
2. Leftists showed that this sort of behavior works.
I’m having trouble being sympathetic for companies who jumped in bed with a movement that is trying bully its way into acceptance when the folks forcefully push back.
I think you are correct. To me, it’s a Golden Rule issue – treat others as you want to be treated. Yet, tolerance and respect are not enough. Respect for Bruce Jenner as Caitlin is too simplistic – I must actually believe that Bruce magically became Caitlin and the guy I watched bust decathlon records was always a woman. Society is being told that tolerance is a hallmark of the racist, sexist, misogynistic white straight male patriarchy – full acceptance and promotion are now required. Objective reality is no longer the ideal; a person’s subjective beliefs or opinion control over provable facts.
The fact that Trump’s indictment didn’t kill off his 2024 campaign, and in fact, increased his popularity, is a prime example of the citizenry saying, “Yeah? Well, go to hell! I’ll vote for Trump if I damn well want to and you can’t stop me!”
On one hand, I’m so very, very tired of all the social justice “woke” virtue signaling across the USA that’s trickling down from corporate headquarter board rooms and stuck in the faces of consumers. This societal morphing has got to stop and if it takes people stripping their dollars from particular retail outlets or particular product manufacturers because they are perceived as being a direct part of the virtue signaling problem, then sobeit.
On the other hand, boycotts have consequences, both good and bad, and people need to individually weigh both before they actively jump on the bandwagon and participate in a boycott that could end up directly affecting their local community in a very negative way.
All choices have consequences, some consequences are known and some are unknown because they are secondary. Critical thinking is crucial.
Here is a short list of come things I’ve personally boycotted:
Personally, I’m sick and tired of listening to the preaching on The Gospel of Trans Superiority. Sick to death of it. I’m not tolerating the preaching anymore. Any company pushing trans ideology is not a company I plan to spend money at, and I don’t particularly care whether that is ethical or not.
I am boarding that train, too.
But you see the problem, right? Target should be able to sell MAGA hats and Black Lives Matter t-shirts. A retailer isn’t endorsing a product by selling it, other than saying that it’s safe and not illegal. This is a bad slippery slope: watch the boycotts on supermarkets that sell meat in the next stage of climate change hysteria. “They’re killing the planet!”
That’s correct. Target should be able to sell whatever it wants without impunity. Yet, watch what happens when a business decides to sell MAGA hats: A teenager from the DC area suffered untotaled abuse because he wore a MAGA hat in DC to great discontent of some idiot drum-pounding activist and the entire country declared he had a “punchable” face. Yes, he sued a number of major networks and settled with them.
The response you are seeing should be expected. In fact, NP’s contempt for companies doing this is becoming justified. PETA has already targeted businesses for selling furs. Climate activists are gluing themselves to, or throwing things on, paintings in museums in protest over climate change. People are stopping traffic to protest their pet grievances. This is not going to end well.
Certain causes have decided that the best way to get their point across is via intimidation, harassment and browbeating. I’m sick of it. Jehovah’s Witnesses are less annoying! The solar panel salesman that show up at my door every other day to lecture me on my stubborn refusal to put ugly, roof destroying fire hazards on my house are less annoying!
Constantly annoying people is not a good sales tactic, no matter what these companies think. I don’t go shopping to be infuriated by political displays the second I walk in the door. Tacking political messages onto anything and everything is not a good marketing strategy if you want customers who don’t share your political ideology.
I’m not in the mood to be harassed about other people’s political beliefs anymore. Leave me alone, or I’m not purchasing your products.
Well, you did it: now I have to take a field trip to the local Target to see if the LGBTQ stuff is just for sale or “via intimidation, harassment and browbeating.” I hate Target: I’m blaming you….
Ha! Well, since they told all the stores to take down the displays and hide the product in the back, the browbeating is probably less in your face now. Part of what I mean by harassment, though, is the blanket coverage coming from everyone at at once. Everyone, from your beer company to your big box store wants to stick their political ideology in your face simultaneously. This month you WILL celebrate the trans ideology! In February you WILL celebrate black ideology! In March you WILL celebrate feminist ideology! We will make sure you celebrate it by plastering it all over everything you watch, everything you listen to, everything you buy, everywhere you shop and everywhere you work!
They are going to do all of that anyways, though. Large corporations are already walking in lockstep with the leftwing of the state like good little fascists.
I do understand your point, and if my ears weren’t being constantly assaulted by the preaching I might be able to hear an ethics alarm beeping somewhere.
Entering into business with a store deliberately trying to piss you off is unethical, in my view.
You have to draw the line somewhere.
“Don’t give money to people who hate you” is a quote first coined by a friend of mine that has escaped containment and is now regularly uttered in online arguments.
Good advice, in my opinion.
As a volunteer manager of a senior center thrift store, I have had volunteers and customers try to tell me that we should not have certain items in the store. The items complained about were religrious books, wiccan books, yoga books or other items that some religions or atheists find objectionable. I told them, we raise money for a senior nutrition program. As long as the items don’t violate our nonprofit mission of nutrition for seniors and sell, we will stock them to support our meals on wheels program. Recently a person came and told me that we should not sell used clothing because the ‘sins’ of the original wearer transfer to the new purchaser. I gave him the same answer as the book censors and told him that nobody will force him to buy any clothing in the store and he is free to shop for other items if he chooses to. We don’t sell illegal items or items that might be subject to safety recalls (such as used child safety seats.) There are a lot of people who want to pressure stores.
The slippery slope has already passed. The gun control activists boycotted Wal-Mart to get them to raise gun sales age to 21, then to end AR sales, then to stop stocking pistol ammunition…. Since this practice is allowed and now the status quo, it would be unethical to allow only ONE side to do it. How many businesses have faced boycots from the LGBTQTIA+ because of perfectly legal things? How many times has Chik-fil-A been denied business permits because of their actions? How many times have Chik-fil-A’s had their entrances blocked so NO ONE could go in? What about Hobby Lobby, what about…
Until now, only the left did this stuff and it was very successful. Try to get Target to stock MAGA hats, they won’t because of the boycott threat. They are legal and there was quite a demand for MAGA attire and flags, but they won’t stock them. Not only the boycott threat, Target knows the left will burn down their stores nationwide. Look at the multitude of attacks on churches and anti-abortion groups. Look at the attacks on conservative speakers across the country. This has led to a very one-sided culture war. This is one of the reasons we have such a captive uniform media and education establishment.
The only way for it to end is for the companies to realize that they will lose when they decide to play partisan politics. The only way to do this is for the right to boycott every product pandering to the left and anything the left loves. That is what the left has done to the right and they have succeeded. Only when the right does the same thing will this end. Also, why is it ethical to require people to spend money at stores that have publicly stated that they don’t like you or your values? Shouldn’t people be able to publicize that a business despises you because of your beliefs?
This is a war. When one group is shooting at another group for years, it isn’t rational to just stand around and talk about how unethical it is for them to shoot at you. You need to shoot back. You shouldn’t be required to commit suicide because it is unethical to fight back. When politicians can ban worship at Christian churches, but allow liquor stores, casinos, and Amway meetings with the support of the Supreme Court, you know you are in a war for your very cultural survival.
Not only should Target, Wal-Mart, InBev, Miller, and H&K be boycotted,
(1) Conservatives and moderates should pressure politicians to defund public schools and colleges that do not have significant percentages of moderate and conservative faculty. Don’t lecture me on how irresponsible this is. At this point, I am convinced that NO public education would be less harmful than our current public education. Why should taxpayer funded education be for only 1/2 the population? Why should these taxpayer funded jobs only be available to 1/2 the population?
(2) Conservative and moderates should pressure politicians to defund any government agency without a significant percentage of moderate and conservative employees at all levels. Are you seriously going to tell me the country would be so much worse off without the FBI at this point? What about the Department of Education? What about the Department of the Interior or the EPA? Why should these government agencies be for only 1/2 the population. The US government employs about 2 million people, why are only 1/2 the population eligible for taxpayer paid jobs?
Only when the one-way politization of society ends can we get better. The way we got into this mess is well-established and accepted by society and the government. We can use the same process to get out. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
You want to say this is unethical, fine. But first, you should have another solution to the problem that will work. Your objection seems a lot like San Francisco trying to ban armed security guards because a guard shot an armed robber in a city where violent robberies are rampant and not restrained by the government or society.
“it would be unethical to allow only ONE side to do it.”
Ugh. Don’t say that, it makes me want to give up. That’s an anti-ethics argument, pure tit for tat. Nobody’s suggesting banning boycotts—they are just unethical, that’s all. As in wrong. The “if they cheat, then was have to too” position is the end of civilization.
Tit-for-tat is not unethical per se. It is a tool in the game theoretical toolbox that can be used to achieve an end. When dealing with a defector (of civilization in this case) the options are to take the hit in the knowledge that the game will still favor the just or (after a certain threshold is crossed) defect equally hard of harder until the defector changes or is out of the game. That the payoffs in the short and medium term will be negative does not negate the need to ensure the most favorable outcome in the long term prevails.
If only one side is shooting, then the other side will soon be dead.
The entire concept of ethics is predicated upon the need to improve conduct, not sink to the lowest common denominator.
Ethics needs to be balanced with the ability to win.
I think we can all agree that sellers should be seen as meeting the needs of its clientele to the best of its ability while – if not maximizing profit – at least creating a satisfactory profit for the owners of the capital employed.
Leaving them alone to do that is the ethical thing to do. However, the actual owners of the capital employed are not the ones setting the goals. Target and many other national brands rely on financial intermediaries who use OPM to advance the DEI agenda. Blackrock Capital has effectively co-opted the capital markets to advance the politics of its management and not the individuals whose pension and savings are being used as leverage for corporate compliance on issues antithetical to the provider of funds.
What I see going on is just part of the feedback loop that shapes the market.
I was taught by my father (a Marine) to walk away from a fight. This advice is fine as far as it goes but doing so makes you a perennial victim. There are times and places when those who want to defeat you or victimize you need to be met with more force. Force does not necessarily mean violence but merely using all the tools the bully has used against you more effectively. When the bullies set the rules it cannot be argued that retaliation in kind is unethical. To remain ethical one should not have to be condemned to being the perennial victim to the unethical.
Where is the outcry for the NAACP’s travel advisory against going to Florida that was recently in the news. Is that just information sharing or a call for economic sanctions against a political foe?
I want to make my position very clear: If I need something Target is selling and it is not economically feasible to acquire it elsewhere (unlikely) I will go to Target. I will also not shun anyone else for shopping or not shopping at Target.
Walmart offers LGBTQ pride junk from China and no one cares.
The question to me is that did Target see a profit opportunity or is it a means to project as the CEO stated a place that is home to everyone as part of its DEI strategy. If it has a DEI strategy my question is why. I try to make people feel comfortable in my home and did so in business. That did not require me to express my support for any persons political, racial or sexual orientation. The whole gay pride theme is unique to one group which is not afforded to other groups. I have to question why Target decided to partner with a brand that promotes Satanic culture in some of its branded sportswear. That seems like it is poking most of its customers in the eye. If I purposely made choices that would greatly offend my guests then I really cannot complain when those guests choose to spend their dollars elsewhere.
I usually do not promote boycotts for political ideologies. However, if the side pushing the ideology that I disagree with has a history of bullying tactics then I see no problem walking away from a particular merchant promoting that ideology.
It should be noted that Target does not offer anything special and consumers choose products based on the attributes of the product in terms of benefits, price and the channel in terms of convenience and loyalty. If management reduces the benefits consumers perceive they can expect to lose valued customers.
As a parent of young children, I can explain this. The issue is NOT that they have these products; it’s that they are (or were) pushing these products everywhere, even in sections where children products are displayed and sold. Excuse me but I don’t want my kids getting bombarded with LGBT crap when we are shopping for their clothing, toys, etc. If Target insist on catering to a group that amounts to no more than 3% (no matter how much they try to inflated), and shove that crap in my and my children’s faces then I absolutely will boycott them. Make those products available in special section for these products, just like they do with lingerie, for example.
What is the point of this North Face ad?
A cry for help? It’s the equivalent of corporate suicide.
I rarely shop at Target, but yesterday I had to stop by because it is the only place around here where I can get printer ink after 9 PM. As I walked in I was bombarded by rainbows and LGBTBBQOMG++* propaganda. I don’t know if they are selling any of the controversial products, or targeting minors with ideological slogans, because I got what I needed and left. But I’m for sure not stopping by that store, especially with my kids, until the displays come down. Does that make me an unethical boycotter? I say no, and I suspect a large part of the people who have stopped going to the store do so for this exact reason.
Yet that is what makes this even more complicated. Target is pushing these items because of DIE. DIE is forced on companies under threat of boycott if they don’t. This isn’t a law, companies do this because they will be farced with a boycott if they don’t. So, Target is capitulating to a boycott by the alphabet mafia. The alphabet mafia is forcing companies to do as they say even though theses same people don’t spend their money there. They are demanding the companies espouse the alphabet mafia values or people who DO want to shop at the company will be prevented from doing so by bad publicity, public shaming, violence, etc. The right is basically saying ‘Well, I won’t spend my money there” and THAT is what is getting attention as unethical.
When the left boycotts something, they threaten to prevent the consumer from buying something they want. The left destroy things they don’t use or patronize (the Boy Scouts, for example). This is why Arby’s won’t show their ‘We’ve got the meat!” commercials in Michigan, the vegetarians and vegans have threatened to boycott them. When the right ‘boycotts’ something, they just refuse to spend their money on it. I haven’t seen anyone picketing stores that carry Bud Light or throwing urine on people coming out of stores with Bud Light cases. I actually think a lot of ‘boycotters’ are now using the $20 coupons to buy $20 cases of Bud Light for target practice.
DIE is blackmail under threat of boycott. ESG is as well.
“Alphabet mafia?” Or you could call them the Gaystapo (not all gay people, just these wackadoo militants).
Why does this alphabet mafia have such influence?
Apropos of nothing directly related to this post, but BLM and its grift seems to be teetering on bankruptcy:
Saw that. Gee, that’s too bad….