Pride’s Battle with ‘Pink Capitalism’
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Queer liberation and allyship overshadowed by brands’ persistence to profit from social injustice.
Since the advent of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the LGBTQ+ community have consistently protested to demand respect and equality in effort to inspire global social change for the injustice they have suffered. June has been recognised as Pride month whereby events, demonstrations, parties and parades are held around the world to recognise the need for equal rights for individuals of all genders and sexual orientations.
In effort to support the LGBTQ+ community, several brands have released collections inspired by Pride messaging that reinforce equality and respect for all individuals regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or identity. These collections and advertising campaigns can, however, fall victim to pink capitalism. Many are left to wonder whether these brands genuinely care for the progression and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights and are an effective ally, or whether they are more concerned with profiteering from the journey to queer liberation?
What is pink capitalism/ rainbow washing?
Also known as ‘rainbow capitalism’, pink capitalism is the incorporation and exploitation of the LGBTQ+ movement by the market economy. Many brands have opted to support Pride through the release of exclusive merchandise supporting LGBTQ+ individuals, but often these brands engage in ‘pink-washing’ products in order to make them-and the brand- appear supportive of gay rights, overall reinforcing the progressive nature of brands to appeal to the queer community. Whilst this progression from brands can be interpreted as positive- due to the exposure and growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community- the actions of brands should be questioned to understand their motivations. It is important to recognise that many companies choose to flaunt their support of LGBTQ+ rights without properly actioning efforts towards acceptance, equality and inclusivity. Many brands will exclusively profit from queer advertising and product opportunities throughout the month of June and will not engage in anything similar until Pride month rolls around again.
It is easy to assume that the mass-exposure of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the month of June on a global scale is triumphant. The issue that lies within, however, is that several brands fail to invest profits, time and energy into combatting the deep-rooted issues of oppression that the queer community faces. The platforms of these brands could provide more than enough exposure for the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, and the dizzying annual revenue is capable of inciting significant change for many charities and organisations supporting queer rights, equality and progression, but this simply does not happen to the magnitude it should.
Which brands are actively supporting queer rights?
Whilst it is sadly true that some brands exploit Pride month for profits and brand reputation, there are several examples of brands that demonstrate their positive contribution towards campaigning and supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Pledging to donate 100% of net profits from its 2021 Pride collection to LGBTQ+ organisations and causes, Levi’s 20-piece collection features t-shirts, hoodies, a sports bra and socks that encourage people to ‘respect all pronouns’.
© Courtesy of Levi's
Fenty x Savage
Donating to a range of LGBTQ+ organisations, such as the Trans Wellness Centre and The Caribbean Equality Project, the Savage x Pride collection by Fenty x Savage features crop-tops, bralettes, boxers and thigh-high stockings that champion all body types, shapes and identities.
© Courtesy of Fenty x Savage
Reebok are committed to campaigning for equality and exposure of the LGBTQ+ community through the launch of their ‘All Types of Love’ Pride footwear and clothing collection, designed by the company’s LGBTQ employee community in partnership with the Iconic Ballroom House of Ninja. Additionally, Reebok are further donating £52,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, who are an organisation working to guarantee that all individuals have the freedom to choose their gender identity and expression without the fear of facing harassment or discrimination.
© Courtesy of Reebok
What can you do to show your support?
One of the most important ways that you can show your support is by educating yourself. Pride has a long history that demands to be acknowledged and many resources are available for individuals to engage with, such as National Today, Bristol Live and further podcasts, documentaries and literature. For those able to, donating time or money can be extremely helpful to charities and organisations that support LGBTQ+ rights- Stonewall, BeLongTo, MindOut, Galop and LGBT Foundation are a few charities to research and involve oneself with. Throughout June there are events taking place across the globe which you can take part in; information regarding the Pride rally in London this year is available through Pride In London.