I've realised in recent years that we live in a world where the past is never buried thanks to the internet and pretty much none of the brands out there are squeaky-clean. As a blogger, that puts us a bit of a tricky position. Sadly there are very few companies I can say the words 'I love the brand and what they stand for' about. And gone are the days when you could wander through the beauty aisles, pick up an intriguing-looking product from a brand you've never heard of and go home to review it in a post. Now it's almost as though you have to do a full background check on Google before appearing to promote anything or anyone. And that's not a bad thing - people and companies are finally forced to be accountable for their actions! Today I thought I'd venture into this sticky topic in a pretty chatty post that I hope will explore the issue, even if we don't come to any firm conclusion...
I think in the age of the internet we all feel this pressure for moral perfection - if we don't live up to that, people aren't going to forget it in a rush. I know there are opinions I've had in the past that I'm thoroughly ashamed of, but luckily I didn't Tweet those and I'm not famous! Maybe I'll look back in a few more years as the moral paradigm shifts and I'll feel that way about present me. All we can do is own up and apologise unreservedly and without making excuses. However, what about when it comes to brands? One social media misstep could easily land them in hot water. But where do we draw the line? I think sadly most brands have done something questionable at some point and it's hard to know when you're doing the right thing. Especially as it's so difficult to find out when something has 'gone down' (I try not to involve myself in online drama as a general rule). Often it's only through indirect references that you start to get the impression that something's wrong and it then takes a seriously in-depth Google search for the issue to come to light, by which time you might already have handed over your cash or given the brand an Instagram post.
When the Jeffree Star drama surfaced, I didn't dramatically throw out my liquid lipsticks from him but over time I found myself reaching for them less and the thought of featuring them on my blog just left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. That's something that's personal to me and I don't judge other people's feelings on the topic. However his bullying and racist behaviour wasn't missguided or ignorant or a bad joke or a momentary lapse in judgement - it seemed out and out hatred to me. As he's the face and name of his brand, I couldn't help but associate him and his products with those actions - it wasn't just one idiot who shouldn't have been given the Twitter password... I don't begrudge anyone who saw his apology and gave him the benefit of the doubt but there are some things I think are far outside the realms of acceptable behaviour, so I personally don't forgive him.
What about rubbish customer service and unprofessional behaviour on social media? I find this difficult to make a judgement on. From my perspective, I wouldn't boycott a brand because of this but I would use my platform and my voice as a blogger to call them out and to talk about my experience with them. At the end of the day they're only digging their own grave if they build this sort of reputation for themselves and social media gives us (both as bloggers and consumers) the power to force their hand.
I've spoken a lot about the lack of inclusivity shown by beauty brands and this is possibly the most difficult part of the discussion for me. I like to write about products at an affordable price-point, however this often means rubbish shade selections. Just because I've (by some miracle) found a match doesn't make it ok that a brand totally excludes most Women of Colour. Again, I think this is an area where we can use our collective power as the blogging community to affect change in our little sphere of influence. Whilst I can understand the idea behind a boycott ('hitting them where it hurts'), I think we have the influence to actually make brands change their ways as a customer or former fan of theirs. We can challenge the brand directly through our contacts, we can mention it in posts as much as possible and we can praise brands that do cater to a wide spectrum of makeup-wearers. The point at which I totally give up on a brand is when they're just tone-deaf to the feedback they've been getting for years on the topic! (I'm looking at you, Chanel and Bourjois...) If a brand isn't inclusive with base products, does that mean we should avoid them as a whole? I don't think it's as intentional of a decision as the question implies, but if a brand consistently doesn't cater to my skin tone then I'm probably going to conclude that they don't want my money in general. However my answer would change again if it was one foundation out of five they offer that came in a bit of a rubbish selection.
As I alluded to earlier; there are no clear answers here but we all have a voice and we should use it! I firmly believe in calling out brands when they're in the wrong but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're dead to me forever. Though, as I mentioned with the Jeffree Star situation and brands that always have (and probably always will) pretend Women of Colour don't exist, my patience isn't infinite. It's an imprecise science but once it reaches a point where I can't pick up a product without the controversy drowning out all other thoughts then I probably won't want to buy from that brand any more. I don't think things are black and white - after all you can dislike an action someone takes without completely giving up on them as a person - it's a very nuanced topic that we're all still figuring out (and I'm totally open to the idea that my opinion could change on this in the future). I guess in part, I just want you guys to know that if you see a brand on my blog, please do not assume that I wholly support every Tweet they've ever sent because it isn't accompanied with a long disclaimer!
In the end we all have to work out what we are and aren't comfortable with. I personally don't see buying a product as being an advocate of the brand or as being some sort of a 'supporter' of them. I tend to prefer trying to change things from within wherever possible (as opposed to totally removing myself from the conversation) - whether that's asking a PR contact a difficult question, talking about the issue in a review or calling out a brand on Twitter. But there will be times when the controversy drowns out everything else or there is a string of blatant misdemeanors with no attempt to apologise or make amends going forwards. This is where my patience wears thin and I'll probably stop giving them a chance to change their ways... I can appreciate that everyone approaches things differently and I'm not going to judge anyone else and I hope not to be judged for my own stance, however I hope this gave to an insight into how I feel right now about this ever-evolving topic.
Are there any brands you refuse to support? Where do you draw the line?