Pride Month, at it’s core, is a commemoration of rebellion; a period to honour and remember the 1969 Stonewall riots; where predominantly POC members of the LGBT+ community rioted in response to the police raid of the Stonewall Inn. The riot was a turning point in LGBT+ activism, which beforehand had been predominantly non-confrontational and regrettably ineffectual. Stonewall ushered in an entirely new era of LGBT+ activism; one whose rewards the LGBT+ community are still reaping today — even if there’s still so much further to go.
It’s hard not to feel like, however, that Pride’s origin story has been buried deep these days; replaced with the slactivism of Corporate pride; of rainbow-coloured Twitter logos, Goldman-Sachs sponsored Pride banners and empty sloganeering. The recent backlash against the idea of ‘kink’ playing any part in Pride was a reminder of the sterilization of Pride; an attempt to deprive the event of anything truly subversive in an attempt to offset the concerns from the straight gaze.
Corporate Pride, hypothetically isn’t a bad thing; the willingness of corporations to don the colours of the rainbow in a show of allyship — however performative, it may be — is a welcome indicator of a society that is increasingly tolerant of and accepting towards the LGBT+ community. The motives may be purely self-interested, but the end result is still the same.
The problem, though, is how displays of corporate pride are used as an alternative to real, substantive activism and how performative displays of allyship are used by companies to whitewash a troubling reality. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with so-called ‘Corporate Pride’, but it has to be built on a substantive foundation of real allyship. In reality, the opposite is often true.
Corporate Pride never has been, and never will be, what Pride month is truly about
Many companies with pride collections at least give financial support to pro-LGBT+ causes (see: H&M). Many others however, fail to do anything beyond selling rainbow t-shirts and bags to support the marginalized community. The worst offenders, don’t just fail to substantively support LGBT+ rights, but do the opposite. ‘JetBlue’, for instance tweeted their support of ‘#Pride’ this week, but simultaneously gave $1000 to Nicole Malliotakis — A Republican representative who opposes the right of Trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. Facebook meanwhile changed their logo to incorporate the Pride colours and added a banner to their page donning the words ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’. At the same time, pro-conversion therapy content is being promoted to millions of people on the site. In cases like this, corporate pride isn’t just largely unhelpful, it’s actively harmful; it’s used to disguise a repeated pattern of anti-LGBT+ behaviour.
The number of companies doing this is endless. Back in 2018, Adidas was perhaps the most insidious offender; promoting a “pride pack” on their website while simultaneously sponsoring the World Cup in the notoriously homophobic Russia. This year, Ratheon — the weapons manufacturer — changed it’s logo to incorporate the colours of Pride. It was a hollow gesture from a company whose weapons have been linked to countless war crimes. The company is once again attempting to signal allyship with one marginalized community, while supressing — in the most brutalized way — a different marginalized community.
One of the most offensive things is how transparently selective these companies are in their displays of pro-LGBT+ content. Bethesda — the video game publisher — changed their logo on Twitter to incorporate the Pride colors on their pages for countries like Australia and France, but left their original black and white logo up on their page for the Middle East; a region where being LGBT+ is largely illegal and taboo. This behaviour served as another reminder of the hollowness of corporate Pride: it’s not revolutionary and it’s not principled; it’s a marketing gimmick, that can and would be abandoned as soon as it is no longer profitable. Most importantly, corporate Pride never has been, and never will be, what Pride month is truly about.
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