In this 1993 Seinfeld episode, Kramer refuses to wear “the ribbon” at an AIDS Walk.
Combining the classic messaging of a red stroke through a red circle with allusions to the Canada Goose logo, no-FUR buttons and patches offer an easy and powerful way of helping #MakeFurHistory by directly challenging Canada Goose wearers and disrupting the sadly increasing social norm of wearing fur trim as a fashion statement and status symbol.
But couldn’t they be mistaken for the real thing (at least from a distance) and inadvertently promote the horrible Canada Goose brand? Perhaps you’ve heard an activist express this concern, or come across an online troll who, seeing a poor quality protest video or photo, says “Hey, were you wearing Canada Goose?!”
While the concern is understandable, it is also unfounded.
Anti-fur activists are highly-attuned to both fur and their activism. As a result, some worry that passers-by might think we’re wearing and promoting Canada Goose. But what of the average person on the street… navigating other pedestrians and traffic, thinking about their errands (and just about anything else) or possibly engaged in conversation with a walking companion?
As we might expect, people just don’t pay attention to incidental visual information from across streets or other distances. There is only so much information we can turn our attention to and process, and this is especially true of visual stimuli which carry a high perceptual load. Research into selective attention (or inattentional blindness) suggests that we only consciously experience those objects and events to which we directly attend; meaning that the vast majority of information in our field of vision goes unnoticed. If the perceptual load is high enough, we might not even see a gorilla walk right before our eyes!
Does this mean that no one will ever mistake a no-FUR button or patch for Canada Goose? Unless someone is an activist who has made the issue something for their conscious attention, it is highly unlikely that someone at a distance will even process the fact that you’re wearing a patch or button, let alone make a connection to Canada Goose.
So much for casual passers-by from across streets or parking lots. What about those online trolls?
Diversionary tactics by online trolls are nothing new. They make similar comments about our “leather” shoes. The drill here is no different than dealing with any other diversionary tactic. We offer a correction with something like “No, it’s a no-FUR button targeting Canada Goose” (easy enough), then bring the conversation back to wear it needs to be… that animal exploitation is always unnecessary and unjust. Whatever direction a conversation may take (online or in-person), that’s where, as ever, it ultimately needs to return.
Of course, the decision to wear a no-FUR patch or button isn’t just about allaying concerns. Standing out for what we believe in by wearing a patch or button takes bravery, so we also want to know that it’s effective.
While we can’t expect to attract the limited attentional resources of those at a distance, no-FUR patches and buttons certainly can and do get the attention of those in closer proximity, especially CG-wearers. Whether it’s those we stand in line with at a checkout, sit across from on a bus, stand beside at an intersection, pass by in grocery store aisles, or walk toward on the street, no-FUR buttons and patches get noticed. And whether it’s a subtle (or not so subtle) scowl, a guilty look, or a darting away (of eyes or body), they clearly provoke reactions.
People want to feel good in what they wear and, as social animals, we want to fit in and be admired. In that regard, we are highly susceptible to normative social influence, and full-on engagement and confrontation is not necessarily needed to create a high degree of discomfort and stigmatization. So don’t underestimate the power of provoking even just a downward gaze. The inner narrative of the fur-wearer - that they are someone to be admired for their fashion and status - has been disrupted and supplanted by a negative social message - that it’s wrong to be wearing the skin and fur of another being.
But why the no-FUR button or patch? As a clear jab at Canada Goose, the no-FUR design directly challenges and educates about this leading exploiter of fur-bearing animals. Many people, including many CG-wearers (or so they say), are unaware that the trim around their hoods is real fur. Even without sparking up a conversation, the patch draws a clear connection between CG trim and real fur. No risk of CG-wearers thinking “this doesn’t apply to me”, or thinking that a generic anti-fur button is directed at full fur coats, hats and accessories. Nope. Our unspoken message is clear, “I’m looking at You and your awful trim!” While we do see still see some full fur coats and other gaudy displays, it is clearly the insidious and meteoric rise of fur trim, and CG in particular, that needs to be directly and specifically challenged.
Along with wearing a button or patch, you may also wish to carry some literature, like the “You’re Wearing Who?” post card. It provides some basic truths about fur trim, includes links to organizations like The Fur-Bearers, and lists a few brands that offer fashionable and warm alternatives to fur. The post cards can be offered as a takeaway when the patch or button has sparked a conversation. Or they can be offered in place of a conversation. A question can be met with a simple and nonjudgmental “here’s some information, if you’re interested”, as you offer the post card.
In addition to its message directed at those wearing fur trim, the patch is also a great way to build community amongst those who care about fur-bearing animals. One of the best parts about wearing a patch or button is having people give a thumbs up, an approving nod, or ask with a smile “Are you vegan? Me too!” You may want to keep an extra patch or button in your pocket to spread the love on those occasions.
This brings us to the real power of the patch, which lies in the power of numbers.
Social change requires action that is not only brave, but also sufficiently easy to do and scalable that it can reach a tipping point. Wearing a no-FUR patch or button hits that sweet spot. It is a courageous yet still accessible form of activism. And widespread adoption of a tactic that we can all easily participate in - and that targets, educates, and creates discomfort in consumers of the market’s leading product (trim) and brand (CG) - may be our best and fastest way to social change.
So, if like Kramer, you don’t want to wear your activism on your chest (or sleeve) as a matter of freedom of expression, no worries. No one is going to chase you down in an alley! But, if like the red ribbon campaign - that became a widespread, consciousness-raising symbol of both protest against insufficient AIDS funding, and solidarity with those living with AIDS and their caregivers - you want to participate in an impactful campaign that challenges social norms and demonstrates your solidarity with both activists and fur-bearing animals every time you leave the house, then get your no-FUR button or patch here.
On a closing note, it should be recognized that the fight against fur is taking place on many fronts and through a range of tactics, and they are all important. Municipal fur bans, like the recent ban in San Francisco, and the decision to go fur-free by a growing number of fashion designers, are getting mainstream attention and represent more than symbolic victories. And as activists continue to protest fur retailers and wholesalers, and conduct undercover investigations, new and creative initiatives have encouraged fur-wearers to #ZipOffTheCruelty and convinced sympathetic businesses to post their preference that you not wear fur in their establishments.
Thank you to activists everywhere who are doing so much to help #MakeFurHistory.