Lobbying the Hobby Lobby

jasmine shea hobby lobby

The pics posted by Jasmine Shea on Twitter from a Hobby Lobby in Latham.

Prompted by the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Hobby Lobby case, Jasmine Shea wanted to do something to protest the company's policies on covering birth control for its employees. So Shea decided to visit the Hobby Lobby store in Latham last week to pass out condoms.

Along the way there Shea, who describes her day job as "office worker/comic relief," and a friend decided to add to their protest with a prank: They were going re-arrange the decorative letters sold in the store to spell out the words "pro choice."

It was a relatively small act, but it ended getting a big response after Shea posted pics on Twitter and Instagram. Sites such as Jezebel and Feministing featured the pics, and the act ended up being covered by the Washington Post. And even now, a week later, it's continuing to generate attention.

All that from something that happened in a store Shea says was more or less empty of shoppers.

We bounced Jasmine Shea a few questions this week about why she did what she did, the response it's gotten, and how it compares to other more traditional forms of activism.

There's a whole range of ways someone could have responded to the Hobby Lobby ruling -- standing outside the store with a sign, writing letters, lobbying politicians -- what prompted you to take this approach?

I'm broke and can't make it down to bug Congress (which there are a lot of politicians I'd love to bug) or the Hobby Lobby headquarters. There was one in my area, so at first I wanted to pass out birth control or condoms to the female workers but I heard legally I can't pass out birth control. I was going to pass out just the condoms.

Earlier in the day my friend Robin sent me a Facebook link that Planned Parenthood posted of someone spelling out "All women deserve birth control" in the blocks [at a Hobby Lobby] so I thought that's a great idea.

So on the way up to Hobby Lobby I told my friend what we should do [that] with the letters. We went in, scoped out the scene and started to find letters to move, and once we could snap a photo, moved on to the next project. We made sure not to make a mess or make it a hassle for the workers to put things back in place. We walked around for about an hour fixing things and no one seemed to notice. We left condoms in random places and walked out.

It was a lot of fun. We were kind of bummed we didn't find those blocks, but I knew that using their own crafts to make my point would be hilarious.

What you did -- and the response it's gotten -- is very much of the current media world: a relatively small act that was probably originally witnessed by just a few people, but it's been magnified exponentially online. To what extent did you have a sense that this would play out the way it has?

Social media is how news travels and ideas are passed around with lightning speed. I really didn't believe that my photos were going to blow up the way they did. I put them out because I wanted to make a statement, and make people laugh. Never in my dreams did I expect people like Dan Savage to even see my tweet, let alone retweet it and I was completely honored that he did.

Social media is how news travels and ideas are passed around with lightning speed. I really didn't believe that my photos were going to blow up the way they did. I put them out because I wanted to make a statement, and make people laugh. Never in my dreams did I expect people like Dan Savage to even see my tweet, let alone retweet it and I was completely honored that he did.

I'm still learning about what is out there on social media. This whole thing made me discover Tumblr for the first time. I knew Twitter was the way to go, so I sent out tweets to Hobby Lobby first and using hash tags to try to get people to notice.

I truly didn't believe it would be as big as it is. To me even getting one person to notice and join the fight for women's rights would have made this all worth it. The love and respect I've been receiving truly warms my heart. Because I am just a girl from Albany who is nobody in the world but knowing I am someone who inspires people to stand up and fight for their rights is an amazing feeling. Getting people to know that they can make a change and that their voices matter in America is why I do what I do.

You've caught a bit of blowback from a few people who have said your prank really just ended up making more work for store employees. And others, for better or worse, have called what you did a form of trolling. What's your response?

I worked retail most of my life so I can understand how much it does suck when people move things in the store and you have to set up things again or fold clothes again. It can be frustrating, but it's part of the job and people aren't perfect. (We all know this.)

I was very mindful of making sure my friend and I didn't make a mess. We took the non-used letters and placed them all together neatly and in alphabetical order. I placed them on another shelf next to the display so it was easy for the workers to put the letters back.

To be honest it was really slow in the store. Maybe five or six actual customers were in there and the workers were standing around at the registers waiting to check people out. I wanted to make sure I didn't make a mess because I wasn't trying to ruin their day. I know they had nothing to do with what happened with the CEO and the court's decision.

To be honest it was really slow in the store. Maybe five or six actual customers were in there and the workers were standing around at the registers waiting to check people out. I wanted to make sure I didn't make a mess because I wasn't trying to ruin their day. I know they had nothing to do with what happened with the CEO and the court's decision.

People ask what if the table was turned and someone did that at my job? I'd find it ballsy and hilarious that someone would do that, it's clever.

The word trolling means nothing to me. Strolling/trolling I was walking through the store and I did what I did. They are words and I don't let words hurt me. You should see my hair in the morning if I don't wrap it at night. I put Troll Doll's hair to shame.

More broadly, some people have argued that it's easy to "like" or share something -- but it's not on the same level as other, more traditional forms of activism. Where do you think these sorts of online acts fit in the overall picture for modern activism?

I've been a part of protest outside and inside the Senate in Albany before for marriage equality, school budgets, rallies, and Occupy Albany so I've been there and done that. But sometimes you can't get to the headquarters. I enjoy taking photos of what is going on and sending them out to social media to spread the word. With Hobby Lobby though I could stand outside and protest but I didn't this time. I took an idea and ran with it to make it bigger and more noticeable.

Yes, I can write letters and send emails, but are they really going to read them? Again social media is how news travels and ideas are passed around with lightning speed.

You've gathered something valuable in the modern world: attention. So what's next?

Stay sane and use this power for good not evil. To keep fighting the fight for women's rights and health care in America. I refuse to believe that in the country I was born and raised in, that just because I am a woman that I get treated like a second class citizen. I fight for equal rights for all Americans. We are all equal & love is love.

This interview was conducted via email. It's been lightly edited.

Comments

I had no idea there was a Hobby Lobby in Latham.

You are awesome Jasmine. Thank you.

Anyone who actually wants to be educated on the issue, and not just be subject to CNN's dimestore analysis, there's been a very good back and forth between two law professors (David Post from Temple & Ilya Somin from George Mason) the past few days on the Washington Post's Volohk Conspiracy.

It's light on the legalese.

Outstanding!

"So Shea decided to visit the Hobby Lobby store in Latham last week to pass out condoms."

Why? Hobby Lobby's health plan already covers/covered free condoms - both male and female versions.

Thank goodness we have people like this to 'enlighten' the rest of us.

Right on, Jasmine!

Pro-choice? Allowing folks to make choices and then make others, even total strangers, pay for them? Well, maybe, but let's be consistent: For instance, can you say "school vouchers"?

comment from a Nurse/Advanced Practice Nurse - Ob/Gyn & Women's Health 1 hour ago


Hobby Lobby has not refused all contraceptive coverage, only the pills that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg which is equivalent to abortion. If the owners have a moral problem with offering this kind of contraception, I salute them for standing up for their beliefs. It is not that long ago that NO medications were covered by insurance and we all paid for medications, including birth control, out of pocket. Contraceptive pills are not that expensive and neither are condoms. Companies have a right to cover what they want, especially medication that is not necessary for life. If you don't like it, don't shop or work there. There are plenty of other stores to shop for like items and plenty of other places to work retail. I, for one, am sick and tired of being told what I should accept when I have moral objections to certain behaviors. This country is going to hell in an amoral hand-basket. Bravo Hobby Lobby!

This is just free advertising for Hobby Lobby. If you really want to do something constructive for reproductive rights go to National Abortion Federation or Planned Parenthood and do some online activism. When an employer puts HIS beliefs before the health and medical needs of HIS employees that's a choice I don't understand. Good luck Hobby Lobby paying for those unwanted pregnancy and the moral dilemma of child abuse that comes along with that!

I wonder how the Hobby Lobby owners reconcile their false advertising business practices with their religious faith?

"Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today [June 12, 2014] announced that retail chain Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has agreed to enter into a settlement of his office’s investigation into alleged deceptive advertising practices. Hobby Lobby misled customers into thinking they were receiving steep discounts through deceptive advertising over a two-year period. As part of the settlement, the company will change its advertising practices over the next 60 days, contribute $138,600 in supplies to public schools near Hobby Lobby stores in Upstate New York, and pay $85,000 in civil penalties and other costs." (from press release)

I am completely on her side as far as disagreeing with Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court's decision but rearranging things throughout the store just means that the employees (who are the ones directly affected by the ruling) will need to fix it all. So I'd rather the point is made in a different way.

Posting pictures on social media has zero impact on change to what is happening to the women's rights movement/gender equality and the giant leap backwards the reproductive rights movement has taken since in the last two decades. The Hobby Lobby decision shows that an employers beliefs trumps the medical needs of his employers. What if she was sexually assaulted? What if a condom was to break? People need to think comprehensively and leave medical decisions between a person and their doctor. My boss should not be my obgyn.

I'd like to thank everyone for the love and support. My main goal was to get people talking about this issue and for a week I made a small dent in the universe. Women health matters. And I hope you all pass my story along because the more we talk the more people will listen

Good fun for her i guess, but the conversation shows her as the epitome of the low information American. she states that the case was about women's rights which is not even close. The supremes heard the case based on religious freedom issues.

@Terry McG -- You have to be aware that there are women who use these medications for purposes other than strictly birth control, including moderating problems caused by their cycles. What other things that you or an employer doesn't believe in shouldn't be covered? I'd like to see the list so I can understand why where I work determines what I am covered for. Or is it just this magical ONE issue.

There's a difference between morals and religious belief. It's inconvenient to people who want to impose their religious beliefs on others, but there is a difference.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Approval for another big apartment project, Warehouse District reuse, Pine Hills demos, and more exciting tales of the Albany planning board

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million... (more)

Flowers from the Netherlands, then

Decorative arts break: The earthenware tiles above are from the collection of the Albany Institute -- they date to around 1625 and they were made... (more)

Chuck Schumer is supporting marijuana decriminalization (and thinks legalization in states has worked out pretty well)

Chuck Schumer says he'll be introducing legislation for decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, which would allow states to decide on the legality of recreational... (more)

History days at Cherry Hill and Ten Broeck Mansion

Historic Cherry Hill and the Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany are again hosting early May history days, this time on May 6: Historic Cherry Hill:... (more)

Morning Blend

Cities and trash + The city of Albany is apparently behind schedule on mapping out a plan for how to handle its trash after the... (more)

Recent Comments

... Also I would try a Tux shop. They do measurements for other tux shops all the time (for free), it's an industry courtesy. Waldorf Tux shop (Lark St) is an independently owned, "old school" tux shop--real sense of proper fitting---not just taking the "closest size" from the rack. ...

Chuck Schumer is supporting marijuana decriminalization (and thinks legalization in states has worked out pretty well)

...has 1 comment, most recently from ace

Where to donate a virtually new mattress?

...has 10 comments, most recently from EMB

Stuff to do this weekend

...has 1 comment, most recently from Audrey

A look around the new Cafe Madison

...has 2 comments, most recently from mg

The new season of the CDPHP Cycle bike share has started up

...has 4 comments, most recently from Paul