Take A Stand
Business and politics tend to make uneasy bedfellows, but in these divisive times, even businesses that have historically stayed out of hot-button issues are coming off the sidelines. In this episode: An online florist tells racists to shop elsewhere; Basecamp stops reimbursing employees for Uber rides; and a Chicago couple creates a lighthearted product with a serious message about the treatment of female bodies.
- GQ article on how Infowars and other sites spread misinformation - 00:06
- DNAinfo article on Flowers for Dreams' website pop-up - 1:01
- "Panera CEO Challenges Burger Executives to Eat Their Food" (Bloomberg) - 2:25
- SCOTUSblog coverage of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores - 2:38
- "Cake Is His 'Art.' So Can He Deny One to a Gay Couple?" (New York Times) - 2:43
- "Tarnished by Charlottesville, Tiki Torch Company Tries to Move On" (New York Times) - 2:56
- Flowers for Dreams - 3:45
- "What are B Corps?" - 3:53
- Steven Dyme's op-ed in Crain's Chicago Business (subscription required) - 4:57
- Southern Poverty Law Center - 10:38
- "Uber's new CEO: Dara Khosrowshahi" (Recode) - 11:25
- "This is Uber's playbook for sabotaging Lyft" (The Verge) - 12:55
- DHH's post on deleting Uber - 13:29
- "Uber Fires Executive Over Handling of Rape Investigation in India" (New York Times) - 13:48
- Susan Fowler's piece on her year working at Uber - 14:12
- Recode's coverage of Benchmark Capital vs. Travis Kalanick - 17:55
- Wailin's 2011 article in the Chicago Tribune about Uber's local launch - 20:26
- The news story that made Wailin delete her Uber account - 20:58
- The TaTa Top - 21:55
- Municipal Code of Chicago - 22:52
- The TaTa Top on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - 31:04
The Full Transcript
Wailin: [00:00:00] I’m going to start this episode with an apology, because we’re kicking off with a clip from Infowars, which, I can best describe as a fearmongering media outlet that peddles conspiracy theories and also weird vitamin supplements.
Infowars Clip: [00:00:17] Chicago flower shop won’t let customers order unless they condemn racism.
Wow. Unless they condemn racism and Nazism.
And Nazism! Hey, jackasses! We defeated the Nazis!
Wait, wait, wait wait. We should call the flower shop. Oh, it’s probably closed by now. I don’t know who’s—
Wait wait wait, go to the poll. Do they really have a poll on this? Is that a real poll? Tell me this is a fake poll.
It looks like you can’t proceed unless you check the right box.
This is so ridiculous.
What is going on.
Flowers. Flowers for Dreams. Oh.
Oh, you can still order!
Steven: [00:00:51] My name is Steven Dyme. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Flowers for Dreams. The day after Charlottesville, we had decided as a company to put up a pop-up on our website. The moment you hit FlowersforDreams.com and press go, the first thing you’re served when you get to our website is a message saying, “Will you condemn racism and Nazism and White Nationalism?” If you say yes, we say thank you so much for speaking out on it, or, here are opportunities to speak out. And we link you to a few organizations. And then if you hit no, which we’re hoping many people wouldn’t. But if you hit no, we just, we automatically redirect you to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. It truly was an easy, and I don’t think bold move to take. Everyone was really rallied around it. Everyone was very enthused about us being able to take a stand and make very clear that we just don’t want those people and that business to be anywhere near Flowers for Dreams.
[00:01:49] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:01:50] Welcome to Rework, a podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Wailin Wong.
Shaun: [00:01:55] And I’m Shaun Hildner. Today we’re talking about taking a stand.
Wailin: [00:02:00] I feel like we’re living in an extraordinary time. If we were doing this episode a couple years ago, I don’t think it would sound anything like the episode we put together for today. We would have taken a more straight-forward adaptation of Rework, what the book talks about, which is, taking a stand against a business competitor and the power of conflict to get people talking. It’s a conflict that feels high stakes, but it’s actually not. Like, just recently, the CEO of Panera went after the CEO of McDonald’s and challenged him to eat Happy Meals for a week. So, that’s a fight between brands carried out as a marketing or a public relations strategy.
Shaun: [00:02:37] But then, like, Hobby Lobby takes a stand and refuses to cover birth control for its female employees. Or, a baker in Colorado refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The stakes can get very high.
Wailin: [00:02:47] Yeah, like, Supreme Court high. So, it’s 2017 and a tiki torch company, which, I’m pretty sure never imagined needing to do this, had to issue a statement saying, we don’t approve of our products being used in a white supremacist rally. Businesses are coming off the sidelines and taking sides, sometimes willingly, sometimes a little reluctantly. So, we’re going to wade into some trickier issues in this episode, including the story of Flowers for Dreams’ response to the events in Charlottesville.
Shaun: [00:03:15] I also have a conversation with Basecamp CTO, David Heinemeier Hansson about our company’s decision to stop reimbursing employees for Uber rides. And then we talk to a couple who created a product to protest the double standard around public nudity.
Wailin: [00:03:28] But first, we’ll get back to my interview with Steven Dyme and Flowers for Dreams.
[00:03:41] Steven and his co-founder launched Flowers for Dreams in 2012. They’re an online florist with operations in Chicago and Milwaukee and the company is a benefit corporation, or B corp, which means it’s certified as meeting certain standards around its social and environmental impact. It hasn’t raised any venture capital and it donates a quarter of its profits to a local organization that changes every month. The company has also provided job training and seasonal employment to refugee women in the Chicago area.
Steven: [00:04:10] We’re very much a for-profit company and making money is an enormously important part of our business. We think, actually, we’re using the power of profit to fund, in a sense, purpose and purposeful things. So, I felt a civic and a business responsibility to use our platform to condemn such egregious things as racism, hate, Nazism, anti-semitism, and the like.
Wailin: [00:04:34] What were some of the early signs that this had gotten much bigger than you had anticipated?
Steven: [00:04:40] Monday morning. We had gotten already a couple of media inquiries. We tend to have a lot of traffic anyway on a Monday morning for people sending flowers to kick off the week or to thank someone for the weekend. And soon after that, got an opportunity to write an Op-Ed in Crain’s about why we were taking a stand. I immediately took that opportunity. I thought it was important. My position and belief is that if you’re a business leader your responsibility is to be at the forefront, not kind of cowering or hiding in the back and being “neutral.” That was the early signs and then throughout the day, we saw, as we sort of took to social media about it. We kind of just posted the pop-up. It started getting shared and we started seeing it take a life of its own and getting to weird corners and crevasses of the internet that are not as pleasant.
[00:05:30] And, we were overwhelmed by the number of calls, the number of emails, the amount of trolling that kind of circulated through Twitter and the internet. We were on some kind of suspect chat forums being talked negatively about. By early in the week we had already hired some security at Flowers for Dreams, which I know sounds…
Wailin: [00:05:52] Your offices…
Steven: [00:05:52] Right, our headquarters in Chicago and then, it sounds crazy, we thought so, too, but some of the messages and threats were a little concerning and we wanted to make sure that we were taking precautions. So, we did that and that was a little rattling as well. So, that lasted throughout the week, having this security. So, by the end of the week, we’d really kind of shut down media inquiries and requests. We didn’t want to become a pawn of some other different message. We really wanted to kind of own how we were doing this and not become a victim of our own momentum on this.
Wailin: [00:06:24] And so, you hired the security and then at some point, the pop-up came down, right?
Steven: [00:06:29] Yeah, so, after a week, we decided to take the pop-up down. We felt that our message had been given loud and clear. It was time for us to kind of, as I said, not allow this to become our business. This pop-up or that moment and really focus on what we do well. And we also had another charity that we were supporting that month and we wanted to make sure that their message got heard. Gardeneers that runs student-run, school-based gardens with this cool garden-to-cafeteria model in low-income communities. So, we wanted to get back to focusing on them.
Wailin: [00:07:00] How do you calibrate your responses to current events? Whether it’s you, personally, or as a company, especially now that you’ve done this one thing and seen what that response was?
Steven: [00:07:16] This is happening so often and it’s becoming numbing in a sense. And my biggest fear, not necessarily as a business owner, but as an individual, as a citizen, is that we become complacent. And we stop speaking out because it’s getting tiring and exhausting. So, for us that does translate to business since I do believe that it’s important to use our business platform, which is this huge audience. This huge amount of people on social media and our customer base, to continue to reinforce for them that we’re not going to be quiet or stay neutral or stay silent. That we’re gonna be a leader when it comes to these things. We will keep speaking up and speaking out and I implore other business leaders to do the same.
Wailin: [00:07:56] What advice would you have for maybe a small business owner or an entrepreneur who doesn’t have the financial position that your company does, maybe they want to say something but they feel like they don’t have the luxury of saying, “I don’t want your money.” Or, maybe they want to do some of what you do—giving away a lot of their profits to charities but they’re just not quite in—they don’t feel comfortable doing that yet, maybe because they don’t have their business going yet, they don’t have that momentum. What advice do you have for someone in that position?
Steven: [00:08:31] I would say on both points, there’s plenty of ways to be a good conscious business citizen where you don’t have to give away profits to charity—I don’t think that’s a responsibility of every business. I think you can be still a very meaningful, good business that furthers meaningful, good things without having to give away your money to charity. So, out of the gate I would say, that’s not necessarily best served for everyone. On the other point, in terms of speaking out, when to speak out. How to really make sure you’re not ostracizing people and customers, and that’s for every business owner to assess. On this issue that we spoke up on of Nazism, racism, anti-semitism—I keep using those words over and over again… I think it was really an obligation for as many business owners, if they truly see themselves as a leader, if they truly see themselves as the spokesperson for their company, to reinforce their values and their distaste for what was a really startling moment.
[00:09:25] I mean, for us, one of the reasons and drivers I felt so compelled to put up that pop-up and make a statement was our employees. We have employees of many different backgrounds, many different cultures and colors and I felt that if I had seen that as a minority, which I’m not. I’m a Jew who’s a grandson of Holocaust survivors, and there is some shared experience there. But I am not a minority. I have a good life. I am treated well when I interact with police officers. I am treated well by the court system, etc, etc, etc. But many of my employees and our team members are not. And if I had seen that as them, I was thinking, boy, wouldn’t that make me vulnerable-feeling. Wouldn’t that make me concerned about myself and my own position in society?
[00:10:11] It was more of a way to stand up for our people inside the company as well as rally our consumers who felt equally vulnerable in that moment to say, those values are not going to win. The ones that were propagated in Charlottesville, and we’re going to stand up for the right ones.
[00:10:30] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:10:30] You can find Flowers for Dreams at flowersfordreams.com. I’ll link to them in the show notes for this episode and I’ll also put up a link for the Southern Poverty Law Center. I’m going to donate as penance for all the clicked I had to give stupid Infowars while researching this story. And, if you’d like to donate, too, they do important work that’s needed more than ever.
Shaun: [00:10:51] It’s funny that you bring up donating. One of the most effective ways to take a stand for something you believe in is to be cognizant of where you’re spending your money. We’re about to play this short conversation I had with Basecamp co-founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson, and this idea of voting with your dollars came up a lot. Donating to a cause is one way of voting and so is deciding where to spend company money. After a string of ever more horrible scandals involving the ride-sharing app Uber, Basecamp recently decided to stop voting for them.
[00:11:21] A quick note: we recorded this conversation in August before Uber hired a new CEO. Here it is.
[00:11:29] So, let’s actually go back to the beginning because I kind of remember when Uber first came out, like, how excited everyone was about it. Can you talk about— David: [00:11:34] I was super excited. I remember the first time I tried it, I was like, this is like magic! Like, you push a button on your phone and a car appears? This is what the future is supposed to look like. So, I was really excited about it and I was really in Uber’s corner. Especially as they were dealing with the city. When Uber first launched, at least here in Chicago, it was just black cars. And there were all these arcane restrictions on like, oh, you’re not supposed to get something that comes within 50 minutes, or, I can’t remember what it was. Right? But they were fighting all this stuff. And it felt like Uber was the good guys, that they were fighting all this red tape that was there unnecessarily just to block competition and so forth. And I thought like, hey, there’s a company to get behind and we actually—I forget when it was. Maybe that was 2009 or 10, or something. We had Travis over here at the office and Jason and I sat down with him for, I don’t know, an hour or so and just talked about things because we were really just excited about Uber and we’d both tried the product and thought it was so good.
[00:12:32] And, that honeymoon phase lasted, I think, for a couple of years, where it was just like, this is great. Uber is just totally fighting the right fight and then things started to go downhill.
Shaun: [00:12:43] So, what was the first sign that you saw?
David: [00:12:46] I forget what the first scandal was. I think the first thing might have been the stories about how they started fighting with Lyft. Maybe it was some of the things of like, they were booking Lyft’s cars to kind of run their stats on them to take them out of—and I just went, that’s a dirty tactic. Like, that doesn’t—that’s not something I’d want to be behind. But you go like, oh, all right. Whatever. At least that’s just—Lyft is another majorly funded competitor, two VC companies duking it out. Okay. I can look past that, I suppose. And then all this other just shit came out. And the scandals and just went like, when does this stop?
[00:13:25] And then in February of this year I wrote an article when the latest thing had come out. I don’t even—there’s so many scandals on Uber it’s hard to even keep track of them. You need, like, a multi-layer timeline to just lay it all out.
Shaun: [00:13:39] Yeah.
David: [00:13:39] But, in February, all the shit was just too much. And I went like, this is—it was the latest thing. Maybe it was this case about he rape victim in India or some other despicable thing that they’d just done, and just enough. I wrote a Medium post saying that I was deleting Uber as an app, and I encouraged other people to do the same. Just look at their track record and go, is this a company you want to support? And the funny thing, well tragic thing, was I put that out and I thought, all right, Uber’s had so much—there’s nothing more. And it was just the beginning. This was before Susan Fowler’s account of what goes on at the inside of Uber. Like, we’d just seen the outside. And she then reveals—and of course, when the outside is as corrupt and festering as it is, then the inside is probably not this healthy organism. And I think both Jason and I went like, this is almost like, a cartoon. Like, if you were going to paint capitalism and venture capital-backed start-ups gone wrong in all the over the top ways that you could imagine, you still wouldn’t come up with the Uber story.
[00:14:45] So, at some point after that article went up, Jason and I just had a chat. Like, we don’t want to support this. Like, both Jason and I went, like, yeah, we’re not using it personally anymore, and what else could we do to impact that. Well, we shouldn’t be spending our company dollars on it. Every dollar’s a vote and that’s whether it’s every dollar out of my pocket, or it’s every dollar out of Basecamp’s pocket. And we don’t want to vote for more Uber. We want to vote for less Uber, or a different Uber, or a changed Uber, or something else. So, we just came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be spending our money on it.
[00:15:21] And we were, even after I had put out that post and Jason had sort of made some comments about it. The thing is, most people just don’t pay attention to all that stuff all the time, right? So, we were still expensing people coming in for a meet up and Uber has still, to my surprise and to some extent, a good brand. Lots of people are using it all the time because lots of people are not in on this or don’t care or have other rationalizations for why they want to continue voting for it. But, at least this is what we could do. What do we have control over? We have control over our own pocketbook. We have control over Basecamp’s pocketbook. Enough, with both of them.
Shaun: [00:16:02] Yeah. So, just for a little background for our listeners, we have meet ups, company-wide meet ups twice a year and during that time, people would be taking cabs or Ubers from the airport. We would take Ubers to any of the events, the dinners, that kind of thing that we would do. So it wasn’t an insignificant amount of money that Basecamp was spending on ride-sharing.
David: [00:16:25] No. I forget what it was, but it was thousands and thousands of dollars for sure. Especially during any meet up when we’re, what? 50 people here in town and, I mean. It just adds up. And even, I don’t even care what it was. Whether we spent $1,000 or we spent $20,000. Any dollar was too much at that point. I didn’t want to spend another five bucks on it. I want nothing to do with this. Not only do I want nothing to do with it on a personal level, I want nothing to do with it on a company level. I want to advocate for other people to have nothing to do with it. Which, like, there’s no up side to that for us except for, like, oh, if we can help sway some votes to another direction or something else, that’d be better.
Shaun: [00:17:11] You actually told all of us at Basecamp about, that we’re going to stop spending money on Uber in February and—with sort of a caveat that you would revisit sort of where they’re at as a company and stuff by this August.
David: [00:17:27] Yes.
Shaun: [00:17:28] Has anything changed?
David: [00:17:29] I think—
Shaun: [00:17:30] Or has it just gotten worse?
David: [00:17:31] I think it’s just gotten—it’s gotten a lot worse, actually. I mean, in February when we made the sort of quiet choice internally, we weren’t even going to speak about it publicly, because we were like, you know what, that’s just our take on it and someone else could have a different take perhaps, and okay, fair with that. And then the skeletons just kept coming out. I mean, hardly a week goes out without some sort of terrible thing spilling out. And now they have this whole soap drama going between the venture capitalists fightinig amongst themselves and fighting with the CEO and like, it’s just such a garbage fire of a company right now that, yeah. Safe to say we’re not going to change our decision any time soon.
[00:18:09] Again, I don’t want to say that that could never happen. Perhaps at this point it’s unlikely to, but you could well see that just like, the economic opportunity here for Uber, just like, if you just didn’t run it like a complete shit show, it should be great, right? This should be worth saving somehow. And I mean, they have fired basically everyone at the C-level. I don’t think they have a single C-level executive currently employed. There’s no CFO, there’s COO, there’s no. I don’t know if they have a CTO, but there’s no CEO, right? Like, so, all the top-top leadership seems to have been banished somewhat, or if they’re fighting proxy fights or whatever it is, right? But, obviously not everyone who works at Uber is part of the garbage fire it’s just there’s a lot to clean up. To a point where I don’t remember actually ever looking at a company where you go like, wow they have so much shit to clean up that I can’t even imagine.
[00:19:07] Like, you think of all sorts of terrible companies in the history of technology companies or Microsoft at its worst, or whatever. Like, cutting off the air supply to Netscape and we went, [gasps], clutching our pearls, right. It’s just such a drop in the ocean compared to the shit that Uber has been pulling, that just go… this is on a whole different level.
[00:19:28] I mean, I hate to—every debate seems to center on this point, but you go with the shit that Trump is pulling right? People went like, oh do you remember when we freaked out when Bush or Obama did this or that? Not to diminish that shit didn’t happen under those reigns, it’s just that like, now we’re on a new level. Like, this is a new—there’s new bar here, of—
Shaun: [00:19:46] Completely different game.
David: [00:19:47] Exactly, right? And that’s where I kind of feel like we are with Uber. That, oh, just different… all the normal norms that we have about looking at companies and evaluating them, they need to be revisited for this, because like, we were talking before we started talking here, like, you clip—when you speak on a podcast, if you speak too loudly, you can clip the sound? It feels like Uber’s just clipping all the norms. Like, they’re constantly just running like, I gotta dial the equalizer back, or—
Shaun: [00:20:12] Always in the red.
David: [00:20:14] Yeah, always in the red, right? That we’re not well situated to even know what to do with that.
[00:20:21] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:20:23] Did you know I covered Uber’s launch in Chicago when I was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune?
Shaun: [00:20:27] Really?
Wailin: [00:20:29] Yeah.
Shaun: [00:20:29] So, what were your first impressions of them?
Wailin: [00:20:29] I remember thinking it was a good idea. Like, I had been stranded enough times in various Chicago neighborhoods trying to hail a cab or waiting for some non-existent bus or something that I thought, oh, this is a service that could do really well in the city. I also remember they had a ludicrous, over the top launch party in Chicago that made me feel like I was a resident of The Capitol in The Hunger Games. But, I used Uber a lot and then I got super mad at them in 2014 and deleted my account.
Shaun: [00:21:00] Do you use any other sort of ride sharing.
Wailin: [00:21:01] Yeah, I take Lyft. It was one of those things where it was easy to delete my Uber account in a fit of righteous indignation and get on my high horse about it because Lyft has really good coverage in Chicago. So, I could keep taking rides without missing a beat. If there had not been a viable alternative to Uber, I don’t know what I would have done. I actually took a Lyft to and from the next interview we’re about to hear.
Shaun: [00:21:25] Okay, so, we’ve talked about white supremacy, toxic tech culture, what other fun stuff do we have on deck?
Wailin: [00:21:33] Well, I talked to Robyn and Michelle Lytle, they’re a couple in Chicago who started a business that takes a stand on an important issue in a fun and provocative way.
Robyn: [00:21:49] My name is Robyn, and Michelle and I have been married for three years. We work together on the TaTa Top. We started that in May 2014 and we also have two other businesses together as well.
Michelle: [00:22:02] My name’s Michelle Lytle, I also help run the TaTa Top, and we have two other businesses, primarily started as wedding photographers.
Wailin: [00:22:11] Can you just start at the beginning and tell me how you got the idea for the TaTa Top?
Michelle: [00:22:13] At the time, Robyn and I were dating and a couple of women came and stayed with Robyn from Amsterdam, I think? Right?
Robyn: [00:22:22] Yeah.
Michelle: [00:22:22] Amsterdam. They went to like, Michigan and they were swimming topless, which is normal from where they’re from, and the lifeguard came running up to them, who was also, obviously, shirtless, and he was like, you have to cover up, you have to cover up, you can’t show your nipples in America. And that was the first time, I was like, this guy came up to them and his nipples are showing, and he’s telling them that nipples, you can’t show nipples in America. And so that was the first time that I really kind of was hit over the head with the double standard.
Robyn: [00:22:44] They had come back to my place and had said, can you explain this? Like, why is this a law here?
Wailin: [00:22:51] In the Chicago municipal code, there’s a section on public morals—that’s literally what it says—with some very specific language around female nudity.
Shaun: [00:22:59] Any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any female person is exposed to the public view or is not covered by an opaque covering.
Wailin: [00:23:09] It’s this part about the opaque covering that got Michelle and Robyn thinking, and the TaTa Top was born. It’s a flesh-colored bikini top with very realistic pictures of nipples on them that comes in three tones and makes the person wearing it look like they’re topless.
Michelle: [00:23:25] I sort of enjoy getting people a little bit riled up, in, you know, involving something that’s ridiculous like this. So, when we thought of the TaTa Top, it was like, what if you’re wearing a flesh-colored bikini top that has nipples printed on it. Because, you know, you see like, those shirts where you wear them and it looks like you have your bikini body on the shirt and that’s—well, I was like, what if you did something like this and this would be much more convincing. And our initial thought for that was just, this is going to be something fun that people are going to be able to wear, you’re going to be able to get a reaction out of people. Like, the first time we wore it, that’s exactly what we had. People turning their heads, people kind of, you know, kind of laughing and then coming up and talking to us about it.
Wailin: [00:24:02] How did you decide, oh we’ll make this into a product and a business? Because it could have been a lot of things. It could have been an art installation, or it could have been a social media campaign or… there could have been a lot of other vehicles to express these ideas, but you chose to sell a product and have a business. And can you talk about how you landed on that route?
Michelle: [00:24:26] I think it was like one of the first times in my life where I was like, I have this idea and I really feel like so strongly about it, in terms of if I walked into a store and I saw this top, I would buy this top. You know, you hear ideas from people all the time. “Oh, this idea, this idea,” and no one actually does it. So, I was like, let’s just like, really do this. The first order I just did with the tone that matched me because I was like, if I’m ridiculously wrong about this, at least I have 700 tops that match me and I don’t know, you know, I’ll—eventually I will sell them. Eventually I will find 700 people to buy these tops. We got the first sample, it matched me perfectly, and I put it on. It was just like, this is outrageous. And I went up here to Foster Beach and had Robyn take a couple photos so that we’d be able to get them on the site and we could start selling. And, even I was like, a little shy, but you know… because I was just like. You look topless. You look straight-up topless. From a distance? Definitely think you’re topless, you know? And it was something that no one had ever seen before.
[00:25:28] So. You know, obviously we attracted a lot more attention from people who had been fighting this type of stuff for a longer period of time than we did. We started to really get absorbed in it and start to see just… you know, the arguments against it are pretty sound. I think for most people, they’re like, of course women are different, women are different. But when you really get into it you start to learn things about the movement that is ridiculous.
Robyn: [00:25:56] And we also heard from customers, like people who are ordering it, they would leave us an order note and say why they were ordering the top. And it would be, I was tanning in my back yard without a top on and my neighbors looked out the window and the police were called on them. Lots of women who were shamed for like breast-feeding in public.
Michelle: [00:26:13] It’s about being able to be topless in the same places that men are. And there’s this whole other extremely important side to it which is, like Robyn brought up, the breast-feeding aspect. And so there—it’s not just having a choice to be topless at the beach if you want to be topless at the beach. It’s not just that. It’s also this side of breast-feeding. Of women having to breast-feed in bathroom stalls. It’s interesting because now that we have a baby, there’s this whole other side that we’re able to see first-hand, which is—and Robyn, is like, super cool, breast-feeds pretty much anywhere. But then there are times, like, we were at the Cubs game and Robyn’s like, she really needs to eat. I’m not sure if I’m cool enough to sit here and breast—
Robyn: [00:26:52] I don’t want to be one of those people who ends up on TV, like, look at this mom, breast-feeding in the bleachers at a Cubs game. Because it’s a thing, you know. But, I think, the larger issue is that women are sexualized in the media, in advertisements and marketing, I mean, they’re used to sell anything. But then when like, a breast is used for something naturally, like feeding a baby, it’s like, oh this is inappropriate.
Michelle: [00:27:17] And some of the people who think that women should be covered up are pretty vehement about it, are pretty serious about. And there are some women who have fierce opinions, not just about, you know, that’s something that should be for you and your husband in your bedroom, literally is the things that we’ve had told to us. We would get people who are very aggressive in their opinions and we still do every now and then have trolly comments on Instagram. Even though you know this person’s wrong, to have someone say something to you like, “You’re a slut for wearing this.” Or, “This is why women get raped.” Like, literally those are things that people—obviously those people have other issues, too, but Instagram removing our account, which they did for a period. You do feel a sense of shame even if you know it’s not warranted, it’s still put on you. And that’s sort of infuriating. YouTube pulling one of our videos of just someone in a TaTa Top, it’s pulled because of a nudity/pornography type clause. And it’s like, when pornography is associated with it, it doesn’t feel great, even though you know that they’re misguided, grossly misguided.
[00:28:23] I decided to do it both for, this is an idea, let’s see what happens when I actually do this idea. And then, as it started to take off, and like I said, as we started to really become more informed about everything and hear more of these arguments from other people… and also, seeing the response from the haters it kind of makes you realize, this is something that—this is a small thing that we can do. It’s not our only job. We have a large charity aspect to our business. We’ve raised $30,000 for different women’s organizations, including Keep A Breast which is about early detection. And Chicago Women’s Heath Center is one of our partners right now, too. So, we’ve raised $30,000 collectively since we’ve launched. It’s $5 from each top. And so, then, basically, this is more of a passion project at this point.
Robyn: [00:29:11] With those 700 orders came all these order notes that we were reading and we just realized—yeah, we were crying, we were just. It was so much bigger than what we thought it was going to be. Some of the order notes were just things that we had never expected, like from Australia, women who had had double mastectomies and were like, “I can’t wait to have nipples again.”
[00:29:31] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.
Wailin: [00:29:35] Because the TaTa Top is meant to provoke a strong reaction and social change, the question is, what happens if the product becomes so successful that the laws actually change?
Robyn: [00:29:46] People were like, well, what if this takes off, and what if these laws change, and what if you can be topless?
Michelle: [00:29:52] I think there’s always going to be a market for it, but I don’t even care if it became like, oh, this now is so popular that laws had changed, that’s sort of our goal. You know, the more of these tops, in terms of, because we turned it into a product and because we have that product available to people and people can purchase that and people can wear it and other people see them, and they Google, and then they buy it and they wear it. The more people who wear this, the more times that people go to the beach and for a second think someone’s topless and then realize they’re not. That desensitizes people to people being topless. Now you’re seeing people being topless laughing on the beach or with all their friends. It’s not you’re only seeing people topless on Pornhub. So, that’s sort of why we wanted to make it a product. Like, the more that it’s out there, the more people see it, the more people that are desensitized to it, the less of like a shock gradually. And then that is what’s really going to change things.
Shaun: [00:30:45] Rework is produced by Wailin Wong and me, Shaun Hildner. Our theme music is Broken By Design by Clip Art.
Wailin: [00:30:52] You can find the TaTa Top at theTaTaTop.com. That was fun to say.
Shaun: [00:30:55] I’m sorry?
Wailin: [00:30:57] I’ll say it again. You can find the TaTa Top at theTaTaTop.com. And on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @theTaTaTop, which I encourage you to say out loud. It’s fun.
[00:31:09] You will find links about everything we covered in the show notes for this episode at Rework.fm. If you want to get in touch with us, you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at us @reworkpodcast.
Shaun: [00:31:22] And, we’re not done talking about businesses who take a stand. In two weeks we’ll have a special episode about the company that literally wrote, if not the book, then at least the label on putting your philosophy out there for the world. That’s in two weeks, so make sure you’re subscribed to Rework via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher or however you get podcasts and we’ll talk to you again soon.