By Sarah Garner
Long gone are the days when Pride was reserved for the LGBTQ+ community. June used to be the month where sexuality was celebrated and those who did not have this luxury were remembered. Today, however, hundreds of companies dine out on this notion of pride and exploit its meaning for their own benefit. This now means that Pride is a trend, it is fashionable, and it is losing its true meaning due to commercialisation, and so alienates the very people it is there to celebrate.
This manipulation of Pride is so commonplace that it has its own label, being referred to as ‘rainbow capitalism’. Rainbow capitalism describes the practice of companies exploiting Pride, whereby queer people are targeted through the addition of a rainbow on any product they sell, due to the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community, all for their own financial gain, rather than that of the community. For example, it was found in 2019 that ‘The LGBTQ+ Community has $3.7 Trillion in Purchasing Power’ and businesses have certainly realised this and done everything they can to try and take this for themselves.
Thankfully, it is usually pretty obvious which companies’ ‘Pride ranges’ are genuine, and which are superficial. For example, have you ever noticed when clothing companies suddenly add a temporary profile picture on Facebook? Suddenly everything they sell has a rainbow on it. Their Twitter page is now cluttered with empty messages of support? All rainbow capitalism and the commercialisation of Pride.
Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants to wear a Pride flag as a dress for a month, amazing. But some products that are now sold are so unbelievably ridiculous, it’s hard to understand how they manage to make a profit. Many fast fashion companies, for example, as well as being incredibly unethical, have either slapped a rainbow onto everything or overly sexualised Pride, which seems to me like a huge misunderstanding of what Pride actually means.
Furthermore, at prices as low as these, it is clear that the products are not going to have been made locally, ethically, or sustainably, meaning that this Pride range is doing more harm than good. This completely undermines the meaning of Pride month, whose message consists of inclusivity and fairness.
On the other hand, some companies have got the perfect balance between celebrating Pride with respect, and clever marketing. For example, Michael Kors is selling a Pride-inspired, limited edition T-shirt and all profits are being donated to OutRight International, which is an inspiring organisation that fights against human rights violations in the LGBTQ+ community.
The $68 price tag on these T-shirts comes to around £48 and although it goes to a good cause, some people’s budgets simply don’t stretch to that. Alternatively, the more affordable Levi’s are donating 100% of its profits from the Pride collection LGBTQ+charities. I find Levi’s’ Pride range particularly impressive also due to its inclusion of the trans and non-binary communities through its messaging regarding pronouns. Trans people are often forced to take a back seat during Pride month, so it is nice to see Levi’s truly understanding what Pride stands for.
Pride should never have become a commodity; people have died in the fight for equality and now companies are disrespecting them by attempting to maximise profit. However, there is obviously a market for Pride merchandise and clothing, which is understandable as the community wants to (literally) wear their sexuality and gender identity with pride, and allies want to publicly show their support.
There is certainly a fine line between fulfilling consumer needs and abusing this for their own benefit. This June, either support your local queer businesses or shop with companies that are supportive of LGBTQ+ rights all year round, not just during Pride Month.
Image: Karl Bewick via Unsplash