Putting her money where her mouth is, Grab Your Wallet founder stands firm in convictions

“Boycotting is as American as apple pie,” says Shannon Coulter, co-founder of the #GrabYourWallet movement. “People choosing to spend their hard-earned money however they please has been happening for decades.”

During the polarizing 2016 campaign season, much of the country was shocked over the ugliness of politics. Others were impassioned over candidates they either connected with or vehemently opposed. Many voters were left feeling weak compared to the American political system.

Shannon Coulter, a marketing professional in California’s Bay Area, says she looked to our national civil rights movements for inspiration to flex her power.

Coulter and her silent partner, Sue Atencio, announced www.grabyourwallet.org in October of 2016. Fueled by her revulsion for candidate Donald Trump after the infamous “Trump Tapes” came out, the two women began compiling a running list of companies that have financially benefited the Trump family. This list includes retailers of Trump products, fundraisers for the Trump campaign and advertisers of Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.

In January, Coulter says the web site recorded 2 million unique views and the hashtag reached 800 million people on social media. The movement has taken off with both criticism and praise.

Wielding consumer strength

Coulter says the idea began when she tweeted Nordstrom, renouncing her choice to shop there as long as the department store still carried Ivanka Trump products.

“We want to understand how we can use our consumerism to effect real change, to understand how our own past purchases may have inadvertently influenced politics,” Coulter says.

She’s done her homework, with information she says is already publicly available. She has called to attention names of CEOs who have supported his campaign or been invited to advise his policies.

Companies and organizations are dropped from her list when they discontinue economic support of the Trump family, though most of those companies have cited declining sales rather than pressure from the #GrabYourWallet movement.

“I have dropped 19 companies to date from the list. I want to drop all of them,” the self-described chronic list-maker says. That number is now 23.

Responding to claims of bullying

Coulter says #GrabYourWallet participants are working to promote a more “inclusive society.” She says the site sees surges in activity following such Trump administration announcements as immigration bans and transgender student rights.

She rejects the idea that the movement is meant to put pressure on companies to take a political stance.

“What we’re doing is discovering how companies have already been political.”

Linda Bean, Board Member of L.L. Bean, went on Fox and Friends in January to call the movement “a case of bullying.” Bean claimed boycotts of major brands don’t only hurt Trump supporters, they hurt employees, too.

“It’s amazing to me that people still see boycotting, a Supreme Court upheld right, as bullying,” Coulter counters. “They do a great disservice to victims of actual bullying.”

Responding to claims of anti-feminism

#GrabYourWallet saw a spike in late October, according to Coulter, when Ivanka Trump once again appeared at her father’s side following the release of his hot mic comments.

“People had been willing to cut Ivanka some slack until she returned to the campaign trail,” she said.

Her list of “boycottable” companies includes retailers of the Ivanka Trump brand, so the movement doesn’t appear to be specifically confined to her father’s business endeavors. Coulter has received criticism for targeting the President’s daughter, including from TV commentator and former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro who linked the boycotts to anti-feminism.

 

“It’s hypocrisy to me to put women’s empowerment at the center of her brand while she was campaigning for a misogynistic candidate,” Coulter says.

Ivanka Trump worked to appeal to female voters during the campaign. Since her father was inaugurated, she has tied herself to efforts to promote gender equality in education and business. But, Coulter is doubtful some of her policies truly promote feminism. Her proposed child care policies, for example, have left out tax credits and paid paternity leave for working fathers.

“That puts all the emphasis of child-rearing on women,” Coulter argues.

In fact, Coulter calls it “a sign of respect to Ivanka’s power and influence that she is included in this movement.”

The ultimate goal

Defining what exactly her role is in this consumerism movement has been a challenge to Coulter. She doesn’t think of herself as an activist or a journalist. She doesn’t label #GrabYourWallet as progressive, as opposed to conservative. She can’t even call it a job, although it feels like one, because she’s not even making a penny off it.

Eventually, Donald J. Trump will no longer hold the office of the President of the United States. Then, where will #GrabYourWallet be? Coulter says it’s hard to say.

“It wants to be something more than it is already.”

She says participants have felt emboldened by realizing the power that lies in their spending habits. Although, the same applies to her critics. The President’s supporters have countered the boycotts by doing just the opposite—buying more Trump products. This has led to some claims that Trump family brands are growing in popularity, although it’s unclear whether that refers to units sold or total revenue.

Whether you’re with her or against her, it seems Coulter has awakened a sense of power at a time when many Americans felt voiceless.

So, you want to effect change? Put your money where your mouth is.

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