Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stand for Something

"Racebending" - An illustration for Hyphen Magazine about Avatar:The Last Airbender's controversy over white-washing the casting. For more information check out

In retail, you're taught that you need to be completely neutral. You are not supposed to take stances on politics, religion, sexuality, or anything that might potentially offend a customer. We think this is not the right way to go about things.

While Monkey + Seal equally is against marketing campaigns that serve to make companies look like they care when they don't (greenwashing, etc) , we also applaud companies that actually stand for their values.

We're big fans of Urban Bazaar, (full disclosure - they're carrying our ties, but we're talking about them here because the owners are awesome) a new boutique in San Francisco that only stocks handmade and Fair Trade items. The owners are very specific about the politics of their owners in their "about" page:
"Stemming from their shared passions for social justice, environmental responsibility, and promoting the handcrafted arts, they aim to create an alternative to big box chains and mass produced goods while supporting artisans locally and abroad."
Now that's what we're talking about. A statement of their beliefs and values. Besides selling some really cool stuff (belts made from reclaimed bike tires...Monkey wants!!), they have a clear intent and purpose that as people who also care about these things, we'd like to support.

Many businesses are probably afraid of driving away customers with politics and whatnot. We say, drive them away. If you stand for something positive and awesome, then by all means, stand by it. Although you might drive away some potential customers, do you really want to have people who support things you don't, come to you for help?

Monkey + Seal are all for healthy discussion (not one-sided yelling or name-calling) and debate. However, if a customer is not willing to buy from us simply for the fact that we support gay marriage, or are feminist, or are vegan, or are anti-racist, or anything other attribute that makes us who we are, we're willing to turn down their money. We realize that this is a privileged position to take, but we do our best to stick to our paint brushes and determination (although situations like this don't come up very often, to be honest).

While we don't have anything deliberately stated on our About page besides our mission to help empower other artists, as we are shifting to donating part of all our items (not just our You're Not Alone Anymore shirt) to charities, we'll gradually become a bit more vocal about our causes. We're not saying that you have to be overt about your politics (although if that's what you want to do, go for it!), but I think if you stand by your cause, you'll be better off for it.

If anything, we think that taking a stance and declaring what you believe in is important to your business and to your soul. You can feel good and honest about being yourself, and if you support a cause people will want to support you as well. Like we said before, you should NOT go around making false claims and trying to pitch your product to a niche that you don't really believe in. In fact, if you're not super passionate about anything, then don't pretend to be. But if there is a cause that speaks to you (there usually is), then stand up for it and be proud.

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