Every year we celebrate June as the Global Pride month throughout the world. The purpose of the Pride celebration is to support and unite the LGBTQIA+ community on a common platform. However, in recent times, we are seeing this new phenomenon wherein companies that are profiting from the rainbow capitalism – Corporatization of Pride. Our community organizations are becoming increasingly corporatized and exploited, with Pride parades often witness domination by big business sponsors and floats, vote-seeking politicians, and state agents such as the police, who brag about their LGBT+ inclusiveness but have not apologized or compensated us for their decades of oppression.
“The LGBTQ community wants companies that are authentic, and that means having a 12-month strategy, treating LGBTQ employees well, and showing that they support LGBTQ non-discrimination policies both in their own corporations and also things that are happening in the government. Pride is important, but companies that just outreach during Pride Month are suspect. When we look at brands that are doing the best job, they are showing genuine, authentic LGBTQ support through outreach and policies.”
– David Paisley, senior research director at Community Marketing & Insights to CBSNews
Pride is now capitalism with a pink hue. It has become monetized: we pay to march, the city authorities extort vast charges from the Pride organizers and we are encouraged to buy rainbow-branded merchandise to express our sexual and gender identity. Much of LGBT+ is part of the neoliberal establishment. There is a contradiction that the organizations who come forward to show compassion for the community, become so distant at times other than Pride. This contradiction throws into sharp relief the emptiness that can lie at the center of corporate gestures of “support” for the LGBTQ community.
Less Is Not More
What corporations do not get is that the members of this community are not just their customers but also are a segment who are still a marginalized group with battles yet to be won, nationally, and internationally. Many organizations are doing a dirty trick which involves them collecting funds for Pride merchandise but do not donate profits to queer-specific support organizations. Similarly, Some organizations cap their donation amount and retain the remaining profits. Thus, mindfulness by individuals and watchdog groups is extremely useful for identifying those whose support confines to Pride month festivities.
It’s especially important that organizations are making efforts internally, politically, or by providing year-round queer products to move beyond merely cashing in on LGBTQ+ individuals’ buying power for a small part of the year.
Good morning! Happy June to all brands launching a Pride campaign!! A reminder: you are about to capitalize on our identities/marginalization for corporate gain !!! It is therefore worth giving a second thought to your limited edition rainbow product !! Here, let me help!!! 💕 pic.twitter.com/uNCuGamiBQ
— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 1, 2019
Impact on the LGBTQ culture
Most queers no longer dissent from the values, laws, and institutions of mainstream society. They happily settle for equal rights within the existing social order; often uncritically seeking what straights have, no matter how dubious. Increasingly, the LGBT+ culture has lost its critical edge. We have been mainstreamed, which on one level is great, but mainstreamed on heterosexual terms. Many of us seem to aspire to little more than an LGBT+ version of straight family life.
The trend is to become carbon copies of heterosexuality. We’ve internalized straight thinking and become “hetero homos” – straight minds in queer bodies. Our LGBT+ psyche is becoming colonized by a hetero-normative mentality.
What Pride was before Corporatization came in?
Like Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day that came before it, LGBTQ Pride Month — a four-week celebration including parades and marches honoring the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising in Manhattan and the LGBTQ community’s civil rights progress ever since.
The intervening decades have seen major legal advancements in protections of LGBTQ people and same-sex couples. The historic transformation of this community’s place in society has been led not by the government or politicians. Instead, it is because of the corporations that have embraced and supported their own LGBTQ employees, reached out to earn business and loyalty from LGBTQ consumers, and through advertising. This way they helped normalize LGBTQ people and LGBTQ families for mass audiences.
How Can Corporates do it right?
While we cannot change the past, we definitely can change the future. Companies should focus on becoming a vocal ally. Using social media in times can help establish this. When organizations have the opportunity to stand for what they believe in – even when there’s nothing financially to gain from it. These companies are not to fear to speak up formally in support of the customers they serve, both proactively and reactively.
“At Reykjavik Pride, sponsors cannot display logos at the march. Instead, they are featured on the event’s website and in ads in its magazine. The reason is to keep the focus on the cause, what we have achieved and what is yet to be won. One of our challenges is to not get too mainstream and lose sight of our main goals; we believe it’s likely that corporate floats would outshine our important message.”
By showing their support on relevant causes important to the community, they can ensure that they are with the community at all times. Ben and Jerry did something similar. They rebranded their ice cream to show support for the queer community. Chubby Hubby got renamed Hubby Hubby when same-sex marriage legalization took place in Vermont. Similarly, their apple pie flavored ice cream was reborn as Apple-y Ever. This was right when same-sex marriage was on the table in the U.K.
When Australia didn’t legalize same-sex marriage, the brand again vocalized. They took a stand by refusing to sell same-flavor double scoops in stores in the country.
— Ben & Jerry's Australia (@BenAndJerrysOz) May 25, 2017
By being the representative in the company’s promotional campaigns. Absolute came up with this incredible ad for their limited edition bottles.
Choosing the Community over Profits
In conclusion, Business is about belonging. And corporations can do a better job of proving that LGBT customers belong with their brand. Thus, they have to make a concerted effort to extend themselves to the community all year long.