LGBTQ liberation, not rainbow capitalism
Kamila Bell exposes the issues surrounding the commercialisation of Pride month.
In the center of Pride month that we find ourselves in, we cannot escape an influx of passive ‘allyship’ made by multinational corporations claiming to support the LGBTQ+ community. Some brands have done a good job of making their campaigns for Pride Month, such as ‘Levi’s x OutRight Action International’ giving 100% of the proceeds from its Pride collection to OutRight Action International, an organization focused on LGBTQ+ human rights. Other brands have taken the route of rainbow washing, by adapting their everyday logo to a rainbow adorned one in the month of June (and only this month) and rush to call it allyship.
Whilst significant contributions to such charities is invaluable towards their fight for LGBTQ+ individuals, taking an active and outspoken stance on such injustices all year round, and for all members of this community, is where many brands fall short. This ‘support’ only seems to keep the real issues of homophobia and everyday injustices that those who identify as LGBTQ+ face at an arm’s length; or more accurately a rainbow tinted arm’s length.
With the commercialization of Pride outlined above, further issues of this capitalization are created by brands being outwardly homophobic and transphobic but still creating a Pride clothing line adorned with rainbows every June. Victoria’s Secret is just one brand who has a history of falling into this pool of hypocrisy after their chief marketing officer stated that they refuse to cast transgender and plus-size models due to the shows apparently being “a fantasy”. Well to this I question: “What about the fantasy of young transgender individuals who hope only to be recognized and represented within the mainstream fashion platforms?” So, when this brand then suggests it has the highest support for the LQBTQ+ community in Pride month it feels nothing but superficial following such an archaic stance, articulated without hesitation, by one of the leading personnel at Victoria’s Secret.
If the first steps to recognition in mainstream media platforms find themselves to be in the form of covering merchandise in the Pride flag, then so be it. But let us not allow brands to stop here.
In a world where a growing sense of nationalism and an “us vs. them” rhetoric has exponential use, the need to have an intersectional approach to the challenges that face LGBTQ+ people has become vital. In a community where a spectrum of difference is accepted, this understanding must be replicated onto those whom face an increased range of social and political discrimination worldwide.
One of the women victim to the recent homophobic attack on a London bus, has communicated this idea in depth in a recent article with The Guardian. At the forefront of her article she questions “You saw me covered in blood on a bus. But do you get outraged about all homophobia?”, further stating that the photo of her and her date went viral only due them being white, feminine and cisgender. In addition to this she calls for the extensive response to their attack to be the norm, and for those truly seeking to support every member of the LGBTQ+ community to steer their money away from the commercialization of rainbows towards “people-of-colour-led organizations striving for justice”. Groups who have led the wave of this support include that of Imaan, a London based charity founded in 1999, run by a small group of volunteers, seeking to ensure “no LGBTQI Muslim in Britain feels excluded from their family, their faith or their communities”. Specific support of this kind is invaluable and essential.
Undoubtedly, support for the LGBTQ+ community is better than it was 15-20 years ago; support of any kind is better than nothing. If the first steps to recognition in mainstream media platforms find themselves to be in the form of covering merchandise in the Pride flag, then so be it. But let us not allow brands to stop here. Donating money is always a positive step, allyship through the support of Pride month is and will always be a positive step, but these steps should not slow down into a plateau. Brands must now highlight why such support is vital, highlight why homophobia and transphobia is still an ever-present issue and why these issues need to be addressed year-round. Ensure their outspoken support includes every member of the diverse LGBTQ+ community, that no prejudicial allyship is taken towards a small select group within, sidelining the others and failing to recognize the increased range of social and political injustices they face.
Companies that truly support Pride month and the LGBTQ+ community should seek to establish Queer liberation all year round, address ongoing injustices, working towards equality and acceptance for all. They should not just exploit June as a way to capitalize rainbows.