Dec 7, 2009

The Power of the Purse: Human Rights Campaign Edition

Ice hockey fans of a certain age may remember a time when the National Hockey League had a mere 6 teams, huddled closely against the cold in the American and Canadian north-east. For the rest of you, please just hang in there a moment. Hockey, then as now, was a sport that was fueled by good measures of finesse and brutality both. Teams required players from both ends of the spectrum in order to succeed. The most successful team of the era were les Montreal Canadiens, and firstmost on the finesse front was the incomparable Jean Béliveau.

In Toronto one night for a match against the lamentable Maple Leafs, early in the game one of the home team thugs was sent out to provoke M. Béliveau into a fight with the view to getting him off the ice and into the penalty box. The graceful great was determined to not fight, and so was circling, dodging punches and not punching back, when from the cheap seats a beer enriched bellow was heard:

Hit ‘em with your purse Béliveau!!!... "

The owner of that voice probably never had to buy a drink for the rest of his years. But to bring the point home, we too can effectively hit with our purses. A Voyages en Rose reader (thanks Ellen!) shared a terrific resource with me, that I want to share with you.

The Human Rights Campaign ( is a non-profit, member supported advocacy group fighting the good fight for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered rights. My wife and I are long time supporters of HRC. Good people. Yes, they clear cut whole forests for their direct mail campaigns, but the cause is sound. I had thought of them as largely being involved in promoting legislation that makes life more fair for more people, but of course there is more to the good work.

HRC maintains a
buyers guide. Their method is simple. They write retailers, manufacturers, service providers, financial institutions, media organizations, really all the places we toil and spend the spoils. HRC asks a few questions about hiring policies, benefits (think of extension of health care to same-sex partners) as well as policies vis a vis service to the LGBT community. Some vendors come out tops. Others have blotted copy books. And a handful do not respond and so leave themselves either as unknown quantities, or safely assumed to be unfriendly environments.

With this information in hand, HRC membership is encouraged to shop or not shop accordingly. There is no better way of getting attention from a person or a company than withholding something they want. In the case of these businesses, they want your money. Perhaps they should get it if they deserve it.

I come from a long line of boycotters. In most matters I have the memory of a goldfish, but grudges I can carry great lengths. Happily, I have not met any behavior myself while shopping en femme, or shopping for Petra while in drab mode that puts any company newly on my snit list. My normal, standing boycotts are maintained for my femme shopping (Walmart, can I have my main street back please?), but I have not added to my enemies list on the basis of recent personal experience.

A couple of highlights from the Apparel and Accessories retailer section here:

Personal favorites including Macy’s, JC Penney, The TJX Stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc), Target, and The Limited Brands (including flagship lingerie vendor, Victorias Secret) all score close to perfect by the HRC. So its not just me. These are companies that have policies in place that promote sensitivity, and a culture of openness. I will be back for more.

I was surprised to see a couple of names on the Red Alert, failed grade list. Not too much of my money has gone here, but a little has, and a little always does go a long way. The whole Jones Apparel Company is in the time-out chair. My Evan-Picone’s and Nine Wests may pinch a little next time I slide into them. Burlington Coat Factory, Chico’s, Ralph Lauren, the whole Vanity Fair group are amongst the short-bus, remedial class too.

Given my recent rhapsodies about Ann Taylor, their superb response to an initially awkward service incident, and the royal treatment I have enjoyed there en femme and in drab, you can imagine I was surprised to see them in the HRC gun sites. Ouch.

But this fact does illustrate that as the pharmaceutical and investment management commercials say, your results may vary.

I do not think that the HRC list will change my habits too much. Most of my shopping dollars seem to reward great organizations, and I am happy that most of my findings true up with the findings of the professionals. I encourage you to look through the guide, and, if you believe, like I do, that businesses should be held to higher standards than lower prices, let HRC’s findings influence your habits. Good time of year for a little withholding from those who have been naughty, and a little kindness to those who have been nice.

If you are not a member or supporter of HRC, they certainly are nice, and could use the kindness too. Go ahead, hit ‘em with your purse.

For those of you from outside of the US of A, I would be happy to publicize the name of organizations that do good work of this variety in your countries. Drop a line in the comments section please.

Photo Credit: Bottega Veneta tote courtesy of Couture Carrie


Couture Carrie said...

Stunning post, darling Petra!
Such a funny coincidence... I went to an ice hockey game the other night for the first time in 10+ years; saw the San Jose Sharks while I was in CA!
Thanks for the shout-out; love that BV tote!


Tights Lover said...

Great post. I've been a monthly donor to the HRC for a few years now. This guide seems like a great resourse!

Petra Bellejambes said...

Carrie - had not thought of it before, but hockey provided me with my first garter-belt experience. Hmmm. I bet I can find a post there...

TL - Right on. Thanks ...

Lynn Jones said...

A very interesting post!

From the UK point of view? Hmmm, there's a question. I can only really comment from a retail angle... but Boots, Debenhams and New Look are very good.

Petra Bellejambes said...

Lynn - glad that tickled your fancy. Don't tell me you are a closeted hockey fan ....


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