Rainbow Capitalism: Pride or Greed
By- Aakriti Goel
At first look, the way LGBTQ identities are represented in the corporate world seems encouraging and novel. However, the reality is far from the truth.
It is the action or commercialisation or commodification of LGBTQ+ movements. In other words, business organisations incorporate queerness into their markets, and products, and sell it back to them as a product to make huge profits and interest. It exploits the marginalised community making their pride movements less about rights, equality, and freedom and instead becomes a way to turn a profit. It prompts the question of whether businesses genuinely assist the community or just use it as a means of marketing tool. According to recent trends, as soon as Pride Month is finished, companies’ support for the LGBTQ+ community frequently disappears.
We have all seen an increase in companies changing their logos to rainbow colours, and issuing a public diversity statement appears to be a new proven way for businesses to snag consumers who are socially conscious and have an allyship with the LGBTQ+ community. It is now a box-ticking exercise by the PR department aimed at attracting the fabled ‘pink dollar’. This begs the question: Is support sincere, or is it only another kind of advertising? If there were no financial benefits, would they still carry out these campaigns? Is this Pride, or is it only the selling of LGBTQ+ culture for the sake of capitalism? Pride has lost its activist roots as a result of rainbow capitalism, and has instead become more about commerce and individuals overtly “expressing” their allegiance by purchasing items. Organisations’ marketing initiatives deal with queer issues on the surface but neglect to address the underlying difficulties. Most ads present this problem as a cause for celebration rather than as a real societal exclusion. Even while it is joyful, what is needed is a deeper comprehension and approach that does not revel in the tiny symbolic triumph we have achieved but rather clears the way for the road ahead. They make very little progress toward making inclusion and equality a reality.
Since the true motivation behind all of this marketing is as fuzzy as it can be, rainbow capitalism is exploitative of the community just like all other types of capitalism. Throughout the rest of the year, businesses do little to nothing to promote the LGBTQ+ community, but during PrideMonth, they cover their merchandise with rainbows, utilise the taglines ‘love is love and ‘out and proud,’ and launch a variety of additional marketing initiatives. The unfortunate truth is that these firms pay wealthy business people and support powerful politicians who oppose LGBTQ+ rights. In simple words, what they sell is not what they teach.
Moreover, these businesses primarily target LGBTQ+ people and their supporters who have the means to pay for them. It excludes individuals who may be at risk owing to their race or caste. Allyship isn’t allyship if it is only extended to those in socially or economically affluent groups and fails to take into account the various intersecting facets of identity. Waving a six-coloured flag that excludes the most vulnerable does not work to reform civic society.
The so-called ‘queer friendly’ companies have skewed the employment of queer people. They have rainbow-coloured logos, but their employment of LGBTQ+ people is still questionable. Even if they get recruited, job security is still a distant dream. Furthermore, they keep their true identity a secret. There is no stringent corporate action on harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity that forces them out of their workplace.
Adidas, a very renowned brand, has a special section on its website dedicated to pride selling rainbow merchandise. However, it was one of the major sponsors for the 2018 World Cup which took place in Russia, a country with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Target created a pride-dedicated collection and donated around $100,000 to GLSEN, an organisation that supports and helps LGBTQ+ students. From the outside, people would think of Target as a very inclusive brand that is fostering equality by donating such a huge amount. But the reality is not the same as donating $100,000 is a small price to pay when they are capitalising off a buying power of 1 trillion dollars.
Disney, which sells Pride-related products, edits out all instances of overt gay adoration. The business could have made homosexual characters, but instead, it chooses to promote the community ostentatiously by producing rainbow clothes.
What happens to the money these corporations make from such campaigns? Does brand advocacy for LGBTQ+ issues make a difference, or is it simply branding? Companies such as H&M and Nike donate a portion of what their customers spend on pride merchandise to LGBTQ+ charities but the percentage is very low. Now, some might say that money going to LGBTQ+ charities is a good thing, right? Yes, in the abstract, but when considered collectively, this consumerist contribution structure offers a setting for what is known as slacktivism, allowing both companies and customers a low-effort opportunity to support social and political concerns.
When Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was struck down in 2018, Rainbow Capitalism washed over India. The queer community across the country celebrated the verdict and brands like Zomato, Ola and Uber were quick to include rainbow colours in their logos, social media posts, and even their products. While it was done to celebrate the LGBTQ community, it begs the question of whether they were genuine. Why did these businesses suddenly show their unity? Up until that point, these firms had never defended LGBTQ+ rights.
In conclusion, Rainbow capitalism sweeps the core of Pride under the corporation’s colourful sponsored banners. It has influenced every aspect of our life on an institutional level and is quickly monetising all of our morals and beliefs. Rarely is this activism supported by a genuine commitment to change. Positive rainbow capitalization is promoted as long as it is supported by concrete corporate activity. They must welcome LGBTQ people every day of the year, not just a few.
- Olsen, B. (2021, June 8). What is Rainbow Capitalism and Why is it Harmful? LGBT and https://www.lgbtqandall.com/what-is-rainbow-capitalism-and-why-is-it-harmful/
- Morrison, R. (2022, June 14). Gay Pride Month fuels a corporate backlash that hurts gay rights. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/gay-pride-month-corporate-backlash-hurts-gay-rights-rcna33020
- Kottasová, I., & Chernova, A. (2022, December 5). Putin signs expanded anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia, in latest crackdown on rights. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/12/05/europe/russia-lgbtq-propaganda-law-signed-by-putin-intl/index.html
- Gaysi Family. (2019, June 26). Is Rainbow Capitalism Truly Queer Liberation. Gaysi. https://gaysifamily.com/lifestyle/is-rainbow-capitalism-truly-queer-liberation/