I’m one of the almost 3,000 people that went to JCPenney yesterday as a means of social protest. Okay. Read that sentence again. That sentence is hilarious. My grandmother would laugh her depression-era backside off at that statement. How did we get here? It’s ridiculous. And yet, it was pretty darn cool to watch it happen and to be a tiny part of it.
Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can watch this ,and then you can read my reaction to it (and some interesting comments… this one pushes a button for some folks), and then you should know that this whole thing inspired this shop-in on Sunday, and then you can check out this Facebook page, where tons of people said they’d go shopping in support of the comedian … and then reported that they’d done it. Here are a few blog posts as well.
Caught up? Okay!
Here’s my take:
JCPenney couldn’t buy this kind of publicity. As a former PR person, I’ve been watching this go down the last few days, and it’s been a case study in amazing (and amazing sales). But this kind of thing can’t be proactively planned or orchestrated or duplicated. And that’s why it happened as it did. On the other hand, I guess you could say they technically did buy it…by selecting an interesting and somehow controversial (?) spokesperson. Maybe. (…Honestly, Ellen DeGeneres just seems like a cheery, helpful neighbor to me, not some kind of controversial figure, but whatever. She’s apparently sinister to some … ) But I can think of about 500 more controversial people…many of whom were in our living rooms last night during the Grammy’s.
So yeah, it’s pretty clear this all wasn’t the result of any kind of corporate PR plan. In fact, this kind of thing would NEVER happen in a corporate PR schematic…the whole event started and ended in five days (two of those being a weekend)…in corporate marketing reality, it would take (at least) five months to get something like this past planning stage, budgets, approvals and legal. And then it would cost a half million dollars, be edited throughout, and be completely lame. No. This kind of thing can only happen because of a spontaneous and human reaction to injustice. People created it…and made it happen…because something about Ellen sparked both controversy and incredible response.
I get that. I was amongst the responders. I rarely watch the Ellen Show, I haven’t been inside a JCPenney in decades, but I was motivated to support someone who was being bullied for being herself. I think a lot of us are tired of watching people we love get criticized, ostracized and demonized. We’ve had enough. And if shopping is all we have to do to make a statement against that, well, okay then. Easy action.
And of course action inspires more action.
The only time I ever remember going to JCPenney was when I was very young, with my grandmother, and we purchased pajamas. This memory, coupled with yesterday’s trip, motivated me to buy some little kids’ pajamas for the women’s and children’s shelter at a local Austin church.
So that happened.
And then I saw these.
A rack full of coral red dresses. And I remembered that I had about 50 comments on this red dress post…all from people wishing for their own.
It seemed like a good day to make another person’s wish come true. And $60 seemed like a bargain price for spreading some extravagant happiness. So I got that too. And I’ll send out the new red dress today.
When I went to JCPenney yesterday, I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to buy. But it seemed that by simply moving in what seemed like the right direction, things sort of fell into place. Action inspired action.
They say that change can only come from standing up and yelling about what you believe. Pointing fingers. Setting things on fire. That you can only create change by fighting for it. With weapons. And armies.
I say that change comes in small ways. In quiet ways. In unexpected ways.
I love how so many people came together to stand for peace, and to create it. My grandmother would approve. Even if she might have questioned the other thing I purchased in the name of peace…a $15 blowout from the JCPenney salon. Like I said, life is ridiculous. It’s also pretty cool.
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