PINKWASHING THE RAINBOW: CAPITALISM OF THE PRIDE AND ITS EFFECT ON THE LGBTQ+

INTRODUCTION

The onset of Pride Protest took place more than 50 years ago in 1969 from the Stonewall Inn in New York, when the Gay Community finally took charge and protested against the unjust acts towards the community. The Riots, popularly known as the Stonewall Riots, went on for six days and changed the tide of revolution for the rights for protection and freedom of the Queer Community.

Ever since then, to commemorate the Uprising of June 1969, Pride month is organised to celebrate the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community in June. The month has thus been termed as “Pride Month”. The movement of Pride month has spread out of its national boundaries and spread throughout, where queers, gays, lesbians, transgenders, and all the people of the community and its allies, celebrate the festival all over the world. The main objective of the celebration of Pride Month is to voice/ advocate for the equality rights and for the freedom and protection of the LGBTQ+ community all over the world.

The Pride Month is celebrated through many events but the most famous and prominent event is the Pride March. The popularity gained by the movement has also attracted attention of the corporations and brands across the world. This has further developed into vast market for merchandises celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, capitalising the movement for protection and rights of the Queer community into a brand studded affair. This capitalisation of the Pride month has thus has been termed as “Pink Capitalism”.

Pink Capitalism, Rainbow capitalism, Gay Capitalism or Homocapitalism refers to the process of capitalizing on the LGBTQ+ revolution by incorporating it into the market economy by various enterprises. Brand logos as well as products are pink washed into a rainbow colour only in the Pride Month to demonstrate their so-called allyship with the community.

ORIGIN OF PINK CAPITALISM

In the 1990s United States, the gay community gradually started gaining acceptance from the rest of the population and could now seek employment for themselves which was formerly heteronormative only. Thus, people of the community started earning for themselves. This gave rise to ‘Pink money’ the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+. On the other hand, for India, this process did not start as late as 2018 with the decriminalisation of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Since then, urban spaces in India have been more inclusive to members of the community. The employment of queer individuals has also raised. Therefore, their purchasing power has boosted and this Pink money has allowed for pink washing of products in India as well. Hence, today, due to the rise of pink capitalism, the rise in consumption expenditure of the LGBTQ+ community in India is estimated to account for almost 0.4 to 1.6 percent of the GDP.

Many liberal cis-gendered individuals who are allies to the queer movement also buy pink washed products to portray their allegiance and thus contribute to the rising pink capitalistic market.

IMPLICATIONS OF PINK CAPITALISM ON THE COMMUNITY

With Pride month and Pride movement gaining momentum, the corporations have been rapidly showing interest in sponsoring the Pride Month and the events pertaining in the month in various parts of the world, especially in places like New York. What is to be kept in mind is that no corporation invests a large amount in something, without expecting anything in return for it. Advertisements featuring a same sex couple with family, to earn more sales by supporting the campaign, basically known as “pink washing of the campaign” has now become a national trend with brands such as Target, Chevrolet, Apple, Coca Cola and many such corporations.

The “Rainbow Capitalism” is taking the Pride celebration by the storm with every coming year. In recent times, the Pride March has become a party focused, heavily brand supported event, it has transformed from the movement to advocate the rights of the queer people to a mere retail festival. The rainbow merchandise and flashiest floats that take part are often organised by corporations for the promotion of their brand.

The Pride celebration which symbolised the voices for the freedom and equality rights of the LGBTQ+ people has now become just a profit-making source for the corporations. In earlier years, the activities that took place in Pride Month used to be free of cost, however, these days, heavy prices are charged by the corporations in the form of entry fees. Privatisation of Pride Month has become a topic of debate each year among the members of the community. The celebration and corporations that sponsor them have become so deeply entangled, that it has now resulting in unwanted consequences.

The main objective of the Pride has been side tracked and many now wonder what will happen if the Pride is for sale. The more entities enter Pride, the more expensive it has become. The increasing prices has caused already struggling people from the vulnerable sections of the community to be excluded from the Pride celebration. As the affairs keep on becoming pricier, the people who are in the dire need of support that is to be expected from the pride month are getting priced out. In spite of the intrusion of the corporate greed into the annual celebration in the month of June, the basic events have been reconstructed in such a way that they have lost the essence of what actually the celebration of the pride symbolises within the community itself.

Understanding the Reality beyond the Illusion

The support for the community from the young generation especially, be it heterosexuals or homosexuals has increased dramatically in the 21st century. Any sign of opposition or resistance towards the queer community can cause loss of millions to a corporation. Whereas, a corporation supporting the queer rights is considered a brand that is looking out for the welfare of the queers. Thus, when the Pride Month starts, the corporations begin featuring ads with same sex couples or rainbow coloured products and merchandises, to show their support in order to earn more business. What troubles is that as soon as the pride month ends, so does the show of the corporations for their support towards the community.

Several companies have been questioned continuously about the whereabouts of the donations collected by the corporations through various campaigns. The companies questioned for the pride merchandise were H &M, J.Crew and Nike. It was found that J. Crew donates 50% of the purchase of the pride T- shirts, whereas H & M only donates 10% of the sales of Pride out loud Collection.

It needs to be understood that pink capitalism which is favoured by many individuals of the community has done more harm to the Pride community than it did good. Overtime, the Rainbow symbol, which personified the message of freedom of the oppressed queer community has now been pink washed into a mere medium for capitalisation of the Pride and a manner of earning profits for the corporations.

DIVIDED VIEWS OF LGBTQ COMMUNITY ON PINK CAPITALISM

The LGBTQ+ community is highly torn when it comes to the issue of Pink Capitalism. Many from the community find Pink Capitalism helpful as it has put stars and moons on the Pride March making it a more studded affair. They find the publicity done by the corporations necessary for the widespread advocacy of the queer community rights. Almost 78% of the LGBTQ+ members claim that they are implied to support brands which support the community as the Pink Money has now become a sense of self- identification for the people of queer community.

While some look at the aspect of financial independence through the pink washing of the campaign, many look at the other effects of the Pink Capitalism. Many individuals, deferring from their fellow members, think that the Capitalism of the Pride Month has overshadowed the main objective of the campaign and has materialised the issue into a mere shopping spree. This is a big reason why the pride celebration has become heavily capitalised and has been reduced to a Pink Hue.

Conclusion

It is true that a positive portrayal of LGBTQ+ community is required and advertisements and company campaigns help in spreading the word. In fact, the power of posters and screens is a symbolic one which might provide an upliftment to the community. However, it might be possible that this importance is just illusory if the representation is not backed up by the genuine commitment to the community. Steps should be taken for the upliftment and promotion of the members and discrimination at all levels should be brought down to an end. Moreover, it should not be a month’s job but something that becomes a part of normal life. There is a hairline difference between Corporate Illusion and Real Protection of Rights and this should be taken care of at all levels.


Title Image: Investgrip


This article has been written by Shreeya Kontis & Vaaridhi Jain. Vaaridhi is a fourth year law student at ILNU, Ahmedabad and Shreeya is a second year law student at NLUJ, Jodhpur.