Have you ever had a particular itch to purchase a $900 Tomas Maier Spark Brass Chain Bracelet? WellVogue has, and it’s a part of their “Activist Gift Guide”, which—alongside a $400 crew neck sweatshirt that reads “feminism” in cursive writing—attempts to ignite a fire in the activist in your life… with a little bit of luxury.
Attached to the guide is the following text:
‘Tis the season to get woke. This year has seen women across the country become more politically active. Why not pick a present that helps give back, too.
Vogue Activist Gift Guide
To be fair: proceeds from the sale of every item on the list will go to charity—sales of the $1,295 clutch seen up top will be donated to the CJP (the Committee to Protect Journalism)—but that’s beside the point. Initiatives like like this attempt to leverage the monetary capital of wealthy consumers without forcing them to dip into their social capital. It’s a band-aid solution that inadvertently promotes the message that activism happens with dollars alone.
It’s also a move that seems out of touch with the general direction of Vogue’s junior brand. Since Elaine Welteroth took control of Teen Vogue as the editor-in-chief in May 2016, the bite-sized publication has consistently delivered poignant social commentary and exhilaratingly cutthroat analysis of a political order in decline. In short, it was a moment.
After being cut down to a quarterly (before shuttering its print operation completely), the online publication is all that remains; it seems like their sleek parent brand still has some catching up to do. While no one should be surprised thatVogue’s exists to appeal to the high end consumer, in an age where slacktivism has led to some very serious political consequences—re: whatever the fuck is happening on Capitol Hill right now, Teen Vogue has been advocating against this type of lukewarm political action.
Hi vogue your activist friend would much rather have that $1295 for rent and groceries. What is wrong with you. pic.twitter.com/A0cUjK9IpT
— Harnidh Kaur (@PedestrianPoet) December 13, 2017
Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite so grating if Teen Vogue hadn’t been such a significant factor in showing that young readers are interested in griping social commentary and ultimately, empowering its audience to act on the things that frustrate them. If Doug Jones’s recent Senate victory (which saw black Americans’s in the state of Alabama vote in record numbers) says anything about the role of people in inducing social change, on the ground, direct action cannot be separated out from stamping your name on a donation cheque.
Maybe the gift guide could have also included a bedazzled calling card or a high-quality poster board as well.