Dear A Leftist™,
I just found out that my hairdresser is a hardcore MAGA enthusiast who loves wearing shirts that say “I don’t kneel” and posts lots of pictures with American flags and guns. She does my hair perfectly, but I can’t keep giving her my money, right?!?!
Guilt-Ridden White Lady
Dear Guilt-Ridden White Lady,
You’re not guilty of anything any more than the rest of us are when we make purchases from any of the many businesses that exploit people, animals and the planet. The idea that you can single-handedly boycott your way to a better society seems, at best, extremely exhausting while being almost perfectly ineffective.
It’s good to remind yourself that your individual consumer choices are less about creating systemic change and more about making yourself feel good, righteous and just.1 And that’s okay! If these choices make you feel better about your day, keep making them, as long as you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is in itself activism. In other words, consumer choice as a method of systemic change is about as effective as making sure to recycle in the hope of stopping climate change.
On the other hand, not everything is about grander systemic change.2 Especially at a local level, the signals you send by being voluntarily friendly with bigots in an intimate setting (such as hairdressing) do matter. What does it say to others (especially people to whom her views cause harm) that you are happy to yuck it up with this person on a regular basis for the sake of an appearance of civility and normalcy?
By no means do you have to carve everyone out of your life that you don’t agree with, but you do need to set some boundaries for yourself and you seem to be perfectly justified in looking for a new hairdresser. Remember that your choices around where you spend your money should be rooted in your feelings and the feelings of those you love and support, and should not be confused for activism.
Good luck in your search for a new hairdresser!
- This is probably also why this performative boycotting is such a pervasive cultural norm.
- So I guess it’s time to actually answer your question!
A Leftist is the author of the wildly popular advice column “Ask A Leftist™”.