Rainbow capitalism does more harm than good

Capitalizing off LGBTQIA2S+ history hinders concrete change

Pride Month brings corporate exploitation of queer issues for profits.  PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Carter Hemion, Staff Writer

Rainbow capitalism, a marketing strategy that commodifies Pride, largely harms LGBTQIA2S+ people. Every June, large corporations don rainbows to increase profits, just to forget about us the rest of the year. They often take little to no action to support our needs unless it’s convenient for them, and they may even work to take away our rights.

While there are a few ways LGBTQIA2S+ people may profit off rainbow capitalism, the harm done far outweighs these small benefits. Some companies offer a small portion of sales or a one-time donation to LGBTQIA2S+ non-profits as part of their campaigns to promote a supposed commitment to diversity. This only gives us short-term support, and then we’re swept aside until the next Pride Month. Additionally, non-profits can exploit their workers under capitalism, so even the corporations boasting support for us contribute to the oppressive system that holds us down. 

Other LGBTQIA2S+ organizations profit from running these tokenizing advertisements, while benefitting from the commodification of Pride to support their work. In a few cases, the companies involved may even take tangible actions to support LGBTQIA2S+ people, like developing programs to include more trans employees or changing their insurance policies to equally benefit employees’ same-sex partners. However, this often benefits the most privileged in the community — namely white and cis community members.

Many companies that boast their faux allyship are completely disingenuous. The companies that change their logos to rainbows don’t do so in countries where LGBTQIA2S+ people are less accepted, reminding us that rainbows are only valuable to companies when they match their social climate. 

Companies including AT&T, The Coca-Cola Company, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch, and NBCUniversal continue to donate profits to anti-LGBTQIAS2+ causes while showing off oodles of rainbow flags. These actions are hypocritical and harm our community under the guise of promoting diversity. How can we trust the rainbow in a logo when the same company pays for our continued oppression?

Companies promoting rainbow capitalism insult and discredit prior generations of LGBTQIA2S+ activists. Our history is rife with violent oppression. We continue to experience higher rates of unemployment, workplace discrimination, and poverty — this especially impacts BIPOC community members

Earlier in our fight for equal rights, the Gay Liberation Front declared that “[we] identify ourselves with [ . . . ] all those oppressed by this rotten, dirty, vile, fucked-up capitalist conspiracy.” Our liberation movements need to continue rejecting capitalism. Pride is not a time for companies to market to us and sanitize our stories while making us more palatable in this capitalist shitshow.

Where possible, we can buy from businesses run by our community members and reject the notion that rainbow capitalism was ever about Pride. We can continue sharing information about the ways rainbow capitalism is harmful and the corporations that take part in it. Those who are able to can help by boycotting the corporations that take advantage of Pride Month. Pride is a celebration of queer joy, not a promotion of capitalism.