June 13, 2022
June: the month that celebrates progress that the LGBTQIA+ community has made since the Stonewall Riot. Cities across the United States celebrate by holding parades where anyone in the community can come celebrate their identity. Million dollar corporations change their social media icons to rainbow and release their rainbow covered products into the world.
Year after year corporations release their Pride collections, and year after year the LGBTQIA+ community is disappointed. Not only are these collections often cheesy and done-to-death, many corporations do not give back to the community that they are profiting off of. Even worse, some of these corporations donate to the politicians that are passing anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. These businesses claim to be inclusive and supportive, but are they actually helping?
Rainbow capitalism is when companies attempt to make a profit on the LGBTQIA+ community without doing anything to support or give back to them. This can be seen in stores showcasing their Pride collections, but not donating to any type of charity for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Essentially, rainbow capitalism is when corporations want queer people’s money, but don’t bother to help the community with any struggles they face.
The idea that billion dollar corporations are profiting off of the LGBTQIA+ community is dubious at best. Do these corporations actually care? Or do they want to tap into another market to line their pockets? The issue becomes murkier when these corporations try to incorporate queer culture into their products.
This shirt, which is a part of Target’s 2022 Pride Collection, is an example of companies trying–and failing–to make a product that reflects queer culture. Pronouns are used by almost everyone, but using pronouns such as they/them or others that don’t fit one’s perceived gender is common in the LGBTQIA+ community. Slapping a bunch of random pronouns on a t-shirt does not reflect this aspect of the community. Despite this frankly bad shirt, Target collaborated with multiple queer designers and companies along with GLSEN, a movement that fights for LGBTQIA+ inclusive education for every grade level. This is how rainbow capitalism can get muddy; a company that seems to be doing everything right can still mess up.
Many companies are partnering with charities or foundations that help the LGBTQIA+ community in some way, however some of these are putting the responsibility in the hands of their customers. Giving them the option to round-up your total so the spare change goes to whichever foundation the store is partnered with is unfortunately how some of these billion-dollar companies are choosing to support queer people. A perfect example of this would be Forever 21, who partnered with the Trevor Project. Instead of taking the initiative to donate to the Trevor Project or any organization, Forever 21 made it up to the consumer. This isn’t actually doing anything for the community. Getting the extra nickels and dimes that Forever 21 wasn’t going to get as a profit anyway is not supportive.
A bad design is negligible compared to the amount of corporations that aid in the war against the LGBTQIA+ community. An article from Business Insider explained that “these industry giants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who are pushing for legislation that protects LGBTQ rights, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians actively working to defeat the same bills.” Many corporations donate to both the Republican and Democrat parties hoping to influence them to create legislation that helps business in some way. As a result, these companies are funding politicians that are introducing anti-LGBTQIA+ bills and preventing bills meant to protect queer people from being passed, such as the Equality Act.
The article name-dropped Amazon, Walmart, and McDonalds; all three of which have publicly announced their support of the LGBTQIA+ community. An article from Forbes exposed more corporations that have donated to homophobic politicians; the top three being AT&T, UPS, and Comcast. These businesses are doing worse than rainbow-washing their products and image to the public; they are inflicting harm to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Despite the murky waters of rainbow capitalism, more and more businesses are donating a percentage of profits to LGBTQIA+ charities and foundations. From the Trevor Project to GLSEN, queer people are getting some of their money back for once. The best way to support the LGBTQIA+ community, especially during this month, is to donate to charities directly, advocate against the rampant anti-LGBTQIA laws that are spreading across this country, or to buy something from a queer designer or small business. While the mass produced items in these Pride Collections may be appealing, there are much better ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community.