(UPDATES AT THE BOTTOM)
Buttons Diapers, a brand I often used and had recommended (here and elsewhere), a small company owned by a husband/wife team, Scott & Amy, has been under fire recently. I write about it for a couple reasons, one being that it is a brand I own(ed) and was a brand I recommended up until this point. You will find their diapers mentioned in previous posts and I am still unsure exactly if I plan to remove the references altogether or simply link each reference to this (or subsequent corresponding) articles.
So what happened? This is what I’ve observed.
Heather, a social media representative of Buttons Diapers, posted an offensive status on her personal page. In her politically charged post, she offended people of color. People tried to argue her post was not racist or that it shouldn’t have been posted onto the Buttons Official Facebook page. Face it, people, her post was 100% without a doubt designed to offend. There was nothing edifying, educational, or even remotely nice about what she posted. It was straight up, unarguably disgusting and distasteful. Furthermore, as a SOCIAL MEDIA REP, it doesn’t matter what platform of social media she used, she was representing Buttons, even on her personal page. I hate that the post was shared on the Buttons Official page only because of the extended hurt it caused, but it saddens me to hear (as I was never a personal friend of Heather’s on FB) that this isn’t her first offensive post. In other words, it was only because the post was shared on the Buttons Official FB page that action was taken from the business owners who would have likely otherwise swept the matter under the carpet (again?).
Uproar. Understandable anger, hurt, and protest swept the page. Scott and Amy went live quickly Saturday evening (February 2nd) to assure people that they were going to investigate the issue and address it quickly. From this point, some may recall me going around various posts telling people to just chill out and give Scott/Amy the chance to address this formally. It was infuriating, yes, but they needed the time to properly handle what happened and come back with a strong apology for those hurt and plan of action to prevent this from happening again, including the obvious: terminate Heather.
Sunday, February 3rd, they went live at 7pm PST. And it was wildly disappointing. They came across as far more upset with having to let Heather go than with the incredible offense felt by entire communities. While they did fired her, their apology was seen as insincere at best, as they seemed almost apathetic to the issue of racism and sympathetic to their now former employee. Basically, their video was seen as a cry for “white sympathy”. And to a degree, it worked. Focus in the group began shifting to the victimization of Scott and Amy, who people claimed “aren’t responsible for Heather’s personal posts”. Fact is, yes they are. Again, she was a social media representative. Every time she posted online, she represented the Buttons brand, both on and off the official page. They are liable for her posts. I applaud them for taking the initiative to fire her, but it disturbs me how distraught they seemed about letting her go. Her post was disgusting, and her subsequent response to it all only further validates why Amy and Scott should have been angry at what she posted and glad to let her go.
To add insult to injury, Heather offered a sarcastic apology on her personal page (again, I was shown screen shots as I am not a FB friend), not only with no remorse for the hurt she inflicted to the PoC, but not even any remorse towards the Buttons brand who reluctantly let her go. The unfortunate part about Scott & Amy’s visible disappointment about terminating her was that this disappointment only proved they hated to disassociate themselves from her, further marring their brand and raising eyebrows. Heather, likely pissed about getting fired, made that inappropriate and wildly offensive sarcastic apology post, littered with inappropriate comments from both her and her husband. Her posts and her reactions to this whole ordeal makes anyone with any brains say “good riddance, piece of crap excuse of a human being”.
Seriously, Scott and Amy should have 1000% disassociated themselves from her, professionally, personally, even emotionally. But they didn’t, and so even while they terminated her, they acted like it was something they didn’t really want to do. That’s legitimately concerning.
I looked forward to seeing them take the feedback on the Buttons Official page seriously and then come live again to clear things up. Instead, they began censoring. Scott would come along and say how they want to promote respectful and safe conversations regarding the issue. Yet they began silencing it, turning off commenting on almost, if not, every post on the topic.
To top it off, Tuesday, one of the page admins, Victoria, who has been around since day 1, made it public knowledge that she was told by Amy that they were contemplating removing her as an admin on the basis of some disgruntled emails. Bear in mind that Victoria has been maintaining civility, respectfully engaging, educating, informing… and “some people” were uncomfortable with her. Why they would be is up for interpretation, although many believe those bothered by Victoria were sympathizing with Heather. Regardless, Amy later admitted that she didn’t want to let her go, but by that point, the damage is done and it was pretty clear whose voices they were (and weren’t) listening to. Victoria resigned and was quickly offered (and accepted) an admin position for the Diaper Junction Diaper Junkies page.
The owner of Diaper Junction recently released a sell-out Buttons exclusive print that most people were only just receiving in the midst of this mess. Very disgruntled by what has happened, she made it clear that Diaper Junction in no way tolerates racism, and she is donating a portion of her proceeds from her exclusive print, Stellar, to Color of Change.
As of early this morning, I noticed the Buttons Official page was shut down and archived. When I did some searching (as the content is still visible), what I guessed is what I discovered: it looks like they’re trying to clean the page up. Posts are being deleted and I wouldn’t be surprised if people wind up removed/banned as well.
This week was so conflicting for me personally. With receiving that beautiful Buttons brand DJ exclusive cover in the mail Monday (during the height of all this mess), I put the Buttons Shirt and the new cover on the sir, and snapped some pictures. I was still somewhat confident on Monday that Buttons would still step up and take action quickly to rectify the situation. Yet, here it is Wednesday, the page is now archived with history being erased, the admin who was the promising voice for the company (rightfully) resigned Tuesday, the company keeps doing things that raise serious eyebrows, and my hope is fading.
I still believe there is a glimmer of hope.
I am still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they attempt to make an effort to go by addressing this issue with all sincerity, I will definitely linger because I love the community and want to see them progress forward. After all, if everyone who sees the need for change runs away when things get ugly, who will be there to promote that change? Yes, the company has to want to change, too, but if they’re serious about changing, they need accountability. This is also an opportunity for each of us to personally grow.
The next few days will tell. I know one thing is sure: if they restore the page and try to act like nothing happened or fail to address the REAL issues, I’m so done. All my hope will be crushed. I will destash, walk away, remove recommendations, and I will not do so quietly, either.
This matter should NOT be swept under the rug, left hushed, or erased from memory. This is the other reason why I am writing this post as well. This needs to be archived somewhere. This needs to be remembered. And hopefully, this occurrence can be looked back on as the moment Buttons made a real change in the right direction instead of the reason why so many no longer endorse the brand.
I look at those pictures of my son wearing the Buttons shirt and I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I had such high expectations of the company that weren’t met. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect the issue to clear overnight… but I certainly expected more from them than sympathizing with a disgusting former employee who made it clear she has no care for the damage she has inflicted on both the company and especially the community, namely PoC.
Unless (hopefully until) that change happens, though, I do not feel comfortable purchasing more from or recommending Buttons Diapers. I hope that changes, but unfortunately, my hopes aren’t very high anymore.
Please feel free to chime in your thoughts, perspective, or impact on the issue. Remember to keep things as clean and respectful as possible. You have no idea both how hard it is for me and simultaneously how strongly urged I feel to hit “Publish”. I hesitate to share my perspective, but I feel like it’s part of the “dirty work that needs done” for the sake of promoting positive change.
History should not be forgotten or we will only see a repeat of atrocities.
The following was a public post from the company:
Dear Buttons Community,
Thank you for the many resources you have recommended or sent to us regarding education on racism and equality. We have signed up for local person-to-person consultations, and diversity and human rights development training through the Human Rights Education Institute. The purpose of this training is to deepen our understanding of how race, power, white privilege, white supremacy influences our policies, perspectives, and institutions.
We realize that this is a topic that cannot be fully understood through a formal training, but this training is the first step we will take towards growth and a lifetime of learning on how to stand up against racism and inequality.
We are looking forward to this training and hope this will bring us one step closer to becoming better people, and better business owners.
Amy & Scott
In the comments, questions arose regarding their stance on the LGBTQ community as well, in which they added that their teaching will include LGBTQ inclusivity. They are taking very real steps towards seeing that this very serious issue never happens again. This is far more than certain other diaper brands who have been in this same dilemma have done! I hope to continue to see a positive change in the brand and to see how this will ultimately impact the way they run their business. While a bit reserved, I am excited to see how this translates into future business decisions.
That glimmer of hope got a little brighter.
People have come and gone, and while the brand isn’t as large as they were before crap hit the fan, they are continuing on with, honestly, nothing promising to show for it. It has been a year.
I feel obligated to share what happened to me, too. I’m very hesitant to share, only because I know some will misconstrue my reasoning for doing so or, worse, downplay what happened to me in their own ignorance… I share solely because people are entitled to know about these kinds of things before making a decision on where they put their money. Money is power in this world. I may not have much of it, but I have the right to choose where (most of) it goes. I want it to go to a small business that truly treats their customers right and offer amazing products. I would think anyone would. And if I hear a business is pushing customers to the back burner, I’m not going to spend my money there, it’s that simple. This is why I’m sharing this, as much as I actually don’t want to.
July 2018, Amy reached out to me via email, asking if I did design work and made the diaper I often used to post my mock patterns. After some back and forth, she asked me to make a lemon diaper print for Buttons. How cool to have a Buttons fan design a print, right? Everyone in the fan group knew of my obsession with lemons. Everyone there had seen my seamless patterns I designed and shared. Obviously, making diapers from print to production takes time. She wanted me to present her with a lemon print in the winter months for Spring/Summer 2019.
I made a design and went back and forth with Amy doing revisions she asked for. She seemed happy with it, but then she went silent.
Emailed a month later, no reply.
Drama ensued during late January, early February of 2019.
Finally, after the dust of the drama was plenty settled, I was still willing to give Amy the print, but I knew it was pretty much too late. Being courteous and giving the benefit of the doubt, on April 15th, I emailed her again:
Hi Amy, hope all is well!
Just wanted to know if you were still interested in a lemon print design from me. It’s okay if you want to pass on it! It’s hard to hurt my feelings lol I thought I emailed you before (did I?) and someone had recently messaged me asking if the sunflower print post (someone recently bumped) was a real coming print and that reminded me about that lemon print. I can a new design, too, or scratch it altogether. It’s whatever! Just let me know either way! Oh or if you still want that Buttons diaper illustration I use to preview prints, you mentioned some interest in that before too lol
Only after assuring her that I wouldn’t be upset with her passing on the print did she finally reply 2 days later:
I may or may not have bought a lemon pattern from Shutterstock for the Summer prints! It was just easier because I found one that was exactly what I was wanting. Very similar to your pattern. Thanks so much for offering your pattern and your diaper image! I know we need to update the look of our product images soon but haven’t decided how we want to do that yet. We are about to start the summer rep search and then all the summer prints/products which I am so so excited about! Woohoo!
I changed a portion to red to draw your attention to what really triggered me.
But first, why couldn’t she have just emailed me months ago to tell me she picked another pattern instead of leaving me hanging? She knew once she purchased the pattern before sending it off for production (probably around the time she stopped replying to emails) that she wasn’t going to use what I made. I honestly don’t mind at all if someone prefers something else and doesn’t want to use my print. I’m well aware I’m not an amazing artist and that my form of art doesn’t cater to everybody. That’s okay. But not telling me for months is downright rude and not okay.
Then, after going back and forth with me modifying the print to cater to what she said she’s looking for, she has the audacity to say “I picked something similar to yours”? This doesn’t even make sense. If it was similar, why did she shun mine, then? Maybe this is hard to understand, but as a graphic designer, this is a huge slap to the face.
Then the print came out. You tell me if this is “similar” or not.
But similarities and differences aside, it irked the nonsense out of me. You don’t ask someone to do something, then leave them in the dark to go buy a pattern that you claim is “similar” without at least telling the person. I shouldn’t have had to lure her out with promises of not being offended. And, truth be told, I’m not offended that she didn’t want my work; I’m bothered that she couldn’t give me the courtesy of a simple reply, then added insult to injury by saying she got something “similar”. Seriously?
A quick reply of “I’m sorry but we found another print that we believe better suits the brand, thanks for your time” sent MONTHS PRIOR would have been the appropriate course of action. And had she done that, I’d legit have no hard feelings.
I can just sell the print on shutterstock. It’s really not a big deal to just turn me away. I really am hard to bother, but after what had happened with the drama last year, paired with confirming that she did, in fact, push me to the back burner the winter prior without being shown an ounce of respect as an artist (granted an amateur one), I was done. I loved the diapers, I loved the prints, I couldn’t stand the company anymore.
Amy and Scott have a lot to learn and I really do wish them well, but they will get no more support from me. I destashed everything Buttons, and moved on. Frankly, there are too many amazing companies who treat their customers and fan base with far more decency who are far more worth my time, money, and support.
Signed, A former huge fan and advocate of your brand.