The words “life, healing, sunlight, nature, peace, harmony, spirit” have been plastered on Listerine bottles that are decorated with the original LGBTQ+ flag, alongside the phrase “Care with Pride” as the marketing campaign by the company for the month of pride. Though perhaps perceived as an approach to distributing support to the queer community by hetero/cis individuals, Listerine is merely evident of the annual LGBTQ+ capitalistic effort my corporations to profit off of queer peoples during pride month.
Rainbow capitalism, as exemplified above, is when companies capitalize on queer identity by incorporating facets of the LGBTQ+ movement in their marketing in order to profit off the experience of queer consumers and further intrigue others whom indulge in pride. This is damaging because it allows corporations to hide under the guise of allyship in their relations with queer peoples and, in addition, further distracts others from the central sentiments of pride itself, which lies in the history of LGBTQ+ progress and elements of standing against modern oppression in a heteronormative sphere. If anything, by eliciting the indulgence in consumerism, companies reveal that their sliver of support only exists within the month itself and is solely based on their urge to extend the money they make to a queer base — which, inherently, provides the corporations with a significant profit.
PD at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. Throughout the time between then and now, pride has manifested into a sort of celebratory movement for LGBTQ+ progress and has additionally remained as a barrier against former and current acts of violence and brutality by law enforcement against those who identify as queer. Pride is not merely a statement, but a lifestyle — one that someone whom identifies on the sexuality spectrum beyond heterosexuality is born into, and, frankly one that someone typically faces significant social backlash for naturally exhibiting. To capitalize on pride is to capitalize on this experience — the lives of those whom have been on the field suffering to be themselves — and to disregard the history and contemporaneous nature of queer people kept from being in the community heterosexuals are allowed to exist in. Capitalism regarding pride has not been about support, but a façade to cover the inability of corporations to protect and be inclusive year-round of the LGBTQ+ community.
The manner in which the marketing is approached has been, not the root, but a significant portion in the LGBTQ+ community’s discontent. The aforementioned mouthwash scheme by Listerine faced criticism itself, with observers humorously questioning the ability to display a sense of harmony between being gay and mouthwash. In early May, a British supermarket chain titled Marks and Spencer released their LGBT sandwich — which was, underwhelmingly, just an average sandwich — and claimed to be in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement. There has also been conversation on Budweiser UK sponsoring Pride in London, which is questionable due to the immense negative impact alcohol tends to have on the LGBTQ+ community.
Excited to reveal we are now proud sponsors of Pride in London! We are working closely with them and our charity partners to celebrate the diversity within the LGBT+ community and Fly the Flag for everyone at the #PrideJubilee
A taste of what's to come… pic.twitter.com/g1FYlXqJJk
— Budweiser UK (@BudweiserUK) May 31, 2019
Instead of attempting to profit off of the LGBTQ+ community and only choosing to donate during the month of pride itself, corporations could transcend this by being vocal about LGBTQ+ rights in local communities and on a national and global scale. This must take place not only during June but also throughout the entirety of the year — indignation and unconventionality should not be negligible in considering the support of queer peoples. Also, companies should hire more queer individuals on their staff instead of recycling the minimal amount they tend to have for representation. Allyship is determined by a source’s ability to hold themselves accountable in their own involvement in the oppression of others. If a company wants to show theirs, they must transcend profiting off the LGBTQ+ experience.
It is necessary for consumers to acknowledge their compliance as well, even if avid supporters of the LGBTQ+ cause. There are plenty of businesses owned by queer-identifying individuals that are often ignored or met with holistic indifference by hetero and non-hetero communities. Consumers hoping to support the queer community must also cease the tendency to center themselves in pride by showing up equipped in pride merchandise and expecting to be considered an instant ally of the community.
Remember that pride started as an uprising and is still a fight for the continued liberation of LGBTQ+ peoples across the nation — no matter how much legislation is passed or how many gay sandwiches are made, there is still work to be done. Do not expect to do it justice by profiting off and wearing the LGBTQ+ experience.
Photo: Jenny Matthews/In Pictures