Saturday, 28 November 2015

small business saturday to giving tuesday, and all of the in-between

this weekend is black friday, small business saturday, and thanksgiving sunday (in the states), followed by cyber monday and giving tuesday. i have conflicting feelings about all of it except for giving tuesday, including small business saturday. despite running a small business myself. despite offering sales over this weekend. despite despite despite...but this year, i've been unpacking it a lot more, and i've come to some conclusions. which are open-ended. like most of my conclusions. i'm learning more and more that absolutes aren't really a thing in this world. 

use code SHOPSMALL this weekend in my ravelry store.


black friday was an annual event that started in the states - huge doorbuster sales offered by massive corporations on the friday before (american) thanksgiving (i'm not going to touch my issues with thanksgiving, because that's a whole thing in and of itself that involves talking about colonialism, genocide, white privilege, and a whole host of other awful things - go do some research about indigenous peoples' day here in canada, which is a great alternative). of course, with our economies so intertwined, canada soon followed suit with black friday. small business saturday grew as an attempt from the small business community to redirect shoppers away from the big box stores, especially as so much of the advertising is centred around holiday gift shopping. cyber monday is the result of the online world (ahem, amazon) jumping on the consumerist weekend bandwagon, and now giving tuesday tries to redirect some of that spending into donations for charities. 

i am conflicted about all of this because it goes against so many of my morals (specifically black friday and cyber monday - i strongly believe in supporting small/local/independent businesses as much as possible, and donating to charity is important for a lot of reasons). it's consumerism and capitalism in their purest forms - buy these things for a holiday, and fight all the other people (sometimes literally) to get them because procuring them will make you a better parent/partner/friend/family member/person in general. plus this way you can beat all those fanatic december shoppers. shopping for random shit we don't need feeds into a throw-away culture, a culture of worker exploitation, a culture of angry shoppers who think it's appropriate to take out their frustrations on retail workers being paid minimum wage which isn't enough to pay their bills and definitely isn't enough to justify the abuse received at the hands of total strangers.

this is great and important, even in the smallest ways, if you're financially able to do it.


but my being able to say maybe i won't shop this weekend. i'll abstain from the whole thing and use my dollars in another way/at another time comes from a place of privilege. because by saying "not this weekend", what i'm really saying is "if i really need it, i can afford to buy that thing at full price some other time." and that's major. we are in a society where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing all the time, and the have-nots (those who end up in those shitty exploitative jobs, or maybe there's not even a job available for them for a million possible reasons) have to participate in the consumerism of black friday weekend. not even because they feel the need to get the latest toy for their kid (although the amount of cultural shaming for not "providing" for your child in this way would certainly be enough incentive for a lot of people). but because they need new winter coats because last year's are too small or are too worn out for even mending to help. or because they need to replace their sole computer, which is barely working (and nowadays, being able to function within our society without constant access to the internet and to a personal computer is getting harder and harder, and for those who choose to not use one, that's often another choice stemming from privilege - they don't need to access their work schedule that's sent out last-minute every time, or jump on the parent/teacher sign-up because they have a limited window of availability between their two jobs without benefits). and if they can get a good winter coat or computer that will last them ten years instead of six months because that item is on 70% off, who are we to judge them for doing that? 


and as a small business owner, it's hard to not jump on the bandwagon. especially when so many others are doing it. especially when it means the extra sales might mean i can afford that electric winder that speeds up my ability to wind my yarn post-dyeing, saving me literally hours of work and my shoulder joint. and especially when it means that maybe someone who couldn't afford the full price of my pattern but who felt too shy to ask about it now can download my pattern and buy the wool to knit their dear one something with love. 

so you see, i don't think there's a clear solution. not in our current climate. yes, shopping with our dollars is a strong political statement every time we choose small over mega, indie over global conglomerate, artisan over mass-produced. but, as gibby says, that sentiment often comes from folks (and i will include myself in this):
"sipping lattes in coffee shops
with people who talk radical art and politics
while making no mention of the amount of privilege it takes
to have the option
to not shop at walmart"

i think, ultimately, that choosing to partake in black friday and the like, or not, is a personal choice. made for many reasons. and for a lot of people, that choice might not even really exist due to a lack of privilege. so you do you, and i'll do me, and leave the shaming - all of it - out of it.

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