Shopping at JCP can be good for your health

by julie on February 10, 2012

Penney’s has never been my department store. Growing up, it always had a discount feel which conveyed questionable quality. I stuck to higher end department stores and clothing boutiques instead.

I understand that Penney’s is now JCP, and that it’s actually worth checking out. Old habits die hard though, so it was only after the kerfuffle concerning Ellen and the Million Moms (which might only be a scant few) that I visited the JCP website for probably the first time ever, doing a little recon before Sunday’s Shop-In.

(If you don’t already know the history, JCP hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson, and the Million Moms got their granny panties in a wad because Ellen is gay and does not hold traditional values, and then Ellen schooled the 147 loud-mouthed bigots in what traditional values are all about. It was joyous.)

So I’ll buy some underwear and tee shirts for Kyle on Sunday and do my part in the Shop-In to celebrate JCP’s refusal to let the terrorists win. The bigots don’t speak for all Christians, nor for all Republicans, nor for all moms — and there certainly aren’t a million of them.

But there’s more to it than shopping.

Deb Rox wrote about how inequality amplifies everyday stressors. That is, while nearly everyone has problems to face, inequality — in the eyes of the law and from a social perspective — makes the struggle that much more difficult. From Deb’s post:

[I]t is exhausting to always fight, to be on guard, to push ever onward, to bridge the gap, to make it better for others even if we’ve been underresourced ourselves…

Reading this, I was reminded of another post I recently read by antiracist author and educator Tim Wise in which he discussed the inherent stress of being black:

Imagine the uncertainty, the trepidation, the second-guessing of every glance, comment, or stare, made necessary by a lifetime lived in self-defense mode…

Granted, sexual orientation isn’t visibly apparent the way race is, and I certainly don’t want to incite a competition concerning who’s got it worse, but the amplification of stress seems to be a commonality among minorities.

This is of interest not just from a sociological perspective, but from a medical one. As Wise notes:

Years of research about which most have no awareness — because it doesn’t make the news — tells us that the daily coping with racialization, which people of color learn to do from an early age, but which whites rarely if ever experience, leaves scars. It contributes to the excess release of stress hormones in the black and brown body, causing something called allostatic load — a reference to the short-circuiting of the body’s natural defenses against anxiety-producing events and traumas. That allostatic load then corresponds to higher blood pressure, higher rates of heart disease, and early death. The research has found that even affluent black folks have higher markers for allostatic load than poor whites, despite the real stresses that the latter contend with each day.

Just Google “allostatic load and race.” Then Google “allostatic load and sexual orientation.” Ongoing research clearly indicates that the stress of potential negative perception has a demonstrable negative effect on physical health.

Of course shopping at JCP isn’t going to save lives. Neither are the Human Rights Campaign stickers on the bumper of my car and Kyle’s. But these are small, individual ways to support broader social perspectives, to renounce bigotry, and to demonstrate acceptance of our differences.

Put your money where your mouth is and shop at JCP (they have Sephora!) on Sunday.

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