The Washington Post

Crafty activists are trolling Hobby Lobby by rearranging in-store craft displays to spell ‘pro-choice’

Jasmine Shea, a 29-year-old state employee from Albany, N.Y., considers herself a life-long crusader for equal rights. She’s held signs in rallies for women’s health and gay marriage. She spends her Saturday mornings counter-protesting pro-lifers outside her local Planned Parenthood.

But none of her protest signs or hours in the sun has attracted as much attention as a little stunt she carried out in a near-deserted Hobby Lobby store last week, wherein she rearranged a series of craft displays to spell the phrase “pro choice.”

“I didn’t expect it to blow up like this,” Shea told the Post. “It’s not screaming, it’s not holding signs — it’s just a good statement.”

Shea and a friend originally visited the Latham, N.Y., store armed with a bag of condoms, determined to distribute them to female employees. When they spotted only one woman on duty, they left the condoms around the store and rearranged some craft supplies, instead. Since then, Shea’s tweets and Instagrams of her antics have received hundreds of shares and wide coverage on sites like Feministing and Jezebel.

Of course, we could debate the fairness/efficacy of this particular form of “activism” all day (… just like we could debate, ad nauseum, the greater issues in Hobby Lobby’s uber-controversial Supreme Court suit).

Shea’s fans — actress Wendi McLendon-Covey and columnist Dan Savage among them — have lauded the stunt as a clever, light-hearted way to draw attention to women’s health and the Hobby Lobby case. Her critics, meanwhile, have dismissed it as childish and misguided, less sticking it to “the man” and more inconveniencing a bunch of frazzled, innocent store employees

“This is not ‘activism,’” complained the feminist blogger Melissa McEwan in a post simply titled “Don’t Do This.” “This is just piling more harm on the people who are being directly harmed by this [expletive] ruling.”

In either case, what Shea terms a “protest” or a “prank” is almost indistinguishable from trolling — provoking annoyance and fury, merely to infuriate and annoy. That’s not a criticism, but it’s certainly an intriguing commentary on the state of political discourse these days. We have reached a point where the end-game, perhaps necessarily, isn’t to convert hearts and minds — it’s just to make some noise.

“Yes, you can write a letter. Yes, you can picket somewhere,” Shea said. “But I’m sure Hobby Lobby doesn’t want people doing this in their stores. I think someone there will take notice.”

Copycats are taking notice, at least: Two women have already told Shea they pulled similar stunts at their local stores.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (
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