Pride Month Products: Representation or Rainbow Capitalism?

June 23, 2021

Have you ever noticed that once June—Pride Month—rolls around, a bunch of companies change their logo to a rainbow-themed version for the month? We have and we have some thoughts about it!

The Profit at the End of the Rainbow

Isabella: June has become the official month to celebrate being LGBTQ. It’s a time meant to make queer people like me comfortable in our own skin. Lots of companies have caught on. They might sell products featuring rainbows or t-shirts with sayings like, “Closets are for clothes,” “Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not,” “Can’t even think straight,” etc.

There’s a name for this. “Rainbow capitalism,” also known as “pink capitalism” or “gay capitalism,” is when corporations highlight LGBTQ-themed merchandise and claim allyship. But it can all feel sort of…fake.

Not that the people in their advertisements or anyone who wears the clothes are fake. But it can feel like some of these corporations don’t really care about or consistently support LGBTQ folks. It rubs me the wrong way when they say things like, “Wear your pride!” It feels patronizing, as if our identities aren’t valid unless we buy rainbow products. And some of this marketing seems to rely on the insecurities younger LGBTQ people may have, who may feel like they have to show, or “prove” in some way, that they’re LGBTQ: “Wear this overpriced all-rainbow tux to show the world you’re proud!”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to show pride by wearing these clothes, but for corporations to profit off of Pride Month without necessarily caring the rest of the year is frustrating.

If you like rainbow merchandise, that’s OK! But maybe consider that you don’t need all those rainbows to prove your sexual orientation or gender identity, to yourself or anyone else. Who you are doesn’t need material goods to be confirmed.

What do you think, Chris?

But Any Representation is Better Than None, Right?

Christopher: Thanks, Isabella. While it can be frustrating to see Pride heavily commercialized, there are still aspects of Pride Month marketing to be grateful for. For many of those who identify as LGBTQ, simply seeing any public representation can feel validating, despite the potential intent of the business. The changes that businesses make to their marketing strategies during Pride Month can be extremely valuable—especially to those who have struggled with feeling unseen or invalid in the past.

In addition, certain businesses partner with organizations that support LGBTQ people and advocacy—like GLAAD, The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign, to name a few— throughout Pride Month to raise funds for and awareness of LGBTQ folks and some of the issues they face. The visibility this produces is important to organizations like these, and makes this a productive way for businesses to acknowledge and appreciate Pride Month.

If you enjoy Pride-themed marketing throughout June, that’s wonderful! Although some Pride marketing campaigns can seem insincere, there are many aspects to be appreciated. What would be ideal is if these corporations continue to advocate for and support LGBTQ causes, in June and every other month.

However you view the subject, it’s important to remember that material goods do not validate your identity, and you should celebrate Pride Month however you like. Happy Pride!

Photo by Eduardo Pastor on Unsplash

Posted In: LGBTQ
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