Resolution Tuesday: Let's NOT Meet at Starbucks

I have a new focus for Resolution Tuesday – it’s been building all this time I have been away from The End of Motherhood, honest!  Each Tuesday I am going to report on my efforts to get as many people as possible to boycott Starbucks.  Why?

So glad you asked.

Where it is legal to do so, Starbucks practices gender apartheid.  I first learned about it in this article in the LA Times.  Put simply, if you are a woman who happens to be in Saudi Arabia and enters your local Starbucks to order your daily Venti no-foam non-fat cappucino, you will not be allowed to sit in the brightly lit area with a view of the street and comfortable chairs that is right next to the coffee bar.  No, you will be required to go through a small door into a dark, small windowless space and where you will only be able to hope you get lucky enough to find a chair.

Needless to say, Starbucks would not be allowed to practice this form of segregation in the United States. 

There are other American companies that also practice gender apartheid (Dunkin’ Donuts is a notable and courageous exception).  So why single out Starbucks?

Cause they’re asking for it. 

How? 

So glad you asked.

Starbucks pays a lot of lip service to the notion of being a "socially responsible" company.  In fact, each year they put out a Corporate Social Responsibililty Annual Report.  The 2006 version opens with a letter from Chairman Howard Schultz and President and CEO Jim Donald that includes the following lines that really stuck in my craw:  "Delivering great coffee, exceptional service and an uplifting and personal customer experience have all contributed to Starbucks success" (italics are mine). 

I don’t know about you, but I am 100% sure that being forced, due solely to the accident of my gender, to sip my tea in a separate and inferior section of Starbucks would not qualify as an uplifting and personal customer experience.

Back to that pesky report.  Schultz and Donald go on to write: "Equally important has been our commitment to conducting business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner" (italics are mine).

Uh, I don’t think so.  I wrote to Starbucks today asking how they could call themselves socially responsible and practice gender apartheid at the same time.  I’ll let you know if they respond.

All I am saying is this. Until Starbucks stops treating women as second class citizens where it’s legal to do so, I’m heading on over to Peet’s for my tea and coffee. 

I hope you will consider finding a non-Starbucks local coffee shop to support – one that doesn’t, ever, anywhere, make a single penny from the practice of treating women like second class citizens.

More on this every Tuesday – cause the End of Motherhood opens up all kinds of possibilities.

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7 thoughts on “Resolution Tuesday: Let's NOT Meet at Starbucks

  1. Alright! I will join you at the local independent coffee shop that serves fair trade, shade-grown, organic coffees.
    I’ve been boycotting Starbucks for six months or so. Ever since a NYT story on how they practice classism: It seems that women who work in Corporate are provided with clean, welcoming, private pumping rooms when they have nursing babies at home, and the company prides itself on being mother-friendly.
    BUT: If you are a barrista, and you try to nurse, you will find it almost impossible. First, most managers won’t give you the minutes off needed to pump. If they do, they most likely will not allow you to store the expressed milk in a refrigerator, and the only place you can do the actual pumping is in the public restroom in the store. (We’ve all seen those crapholes, and they are disgusting!)

  2. I am not a Starbucks person, but question: what would you like Starbucks to do in this situation? Stay out of Saudi Arabia all together if this sexism is a requirement of doing business there? Or do you see another solution?

  3. Hey, Imperatrix! Didn’t know that about Starbucks and pumping. Very interesting.
    deezee, so glad you asked that question! If Starbucks were required to practice gender segregation, I would want them to divest out of the country where that was required (as American companies did out of South Africa during apartheid). BUT, Starbucks is perfectly capable of operating within countries like Saudi Arabia without practicing gender apartheid. Dunkin Donuts has stores in Saudi Arabia where men and women are treated equally. I would like Starbucks to show the same sort of corporate courage.

  4. I avoid Starbucks like that plague that it is, so I am afraid I won’t make an ounce of difference. I will just keep getting my fair trade organic coffee from the local places as always. 🙂

  5. Ah radical mama, it is true that if you boycott in silence you will not make a difference, but if you add your name to a chorus, your actions will definitely make a difference. Come join my Let’s NOT Meet at Starbucks group – you can click the badge in the upper right hand corner of this page – and make your silent actions LOUD!

  6. Well, I did join your group. But I just generally don’t boycott things. I simply opt out of the dominant system. Boycotts say, “If you change your policy, I will patronize you.” But I won’t patronize Starbucks ever. They could spread rose petals at the feet of women in Saudi Arabia and I would still not go to Starbucks. Or Wal-Mart. Or McDonalds. Not if I can buy a similar product from a local producer/ grower. If everyone opted out, accountability would return because at the local level, people are held responsible.

  7. Hi radical mama, I understand your point completely and thank you for joining the group. I read a great article in the Financial Times yesterday called “truly, madly, slowly” that I think you would enjoy. Will try to post it today.

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