How Rainbow Capitalism Fuels Anti-LGBTQ Narratives

Large clothing corporations love following the trends. Their recent target? LGBTQ themed products! As pride month rolls around the corner each year, large brands flood the market with pride merch under the guise of being an “ally”. From Levi’s rainbow colored crew neck to Shein’s multicolored striped bracelet, queer merch has steadily been on the rise, hence the term "rainbow capitalism". Also known as pink capitalism, rainbow capitalism is the act of profiting off of LGBTQ-centered products under the guise that a corporation is pro-LGBTQ. 

And obviously there's a problem with that. At the core of any corporation is their constant drive for profit. Sure, we would all love to believe that Target creates rainbow-themed t-shirts from the goodwill of their heart, but in reality, these products are merely another marketing tactic for economic gain. Hence, corporations must create products from the lens of a wealthy, cisgender male to create more “palatable” and straight-coded products. Here is the reality: the day-to-day battles queer individuals fight is far more nuanced and intricate than a rainbow t-shirt can ever depict. 2020 marked the deadliest year in history for the queer community, with 350 transgender individuals killed in just one year and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in Germany surging by 36%. The struggles this community faces stems from decades of police brutality, workplace discrimination, unjust stigma, violence, and homophobic legislation. Unfortunately, the most activism we will ever get out of large corporations is simply a glamorized, watered-down narrative of queer lives.

Blindly spreading flags on the streets does not depict the nuanced struggles queer individuals face on the daily. A rainbow-patterned bracelet does not even come close to portraying the violent assaults queer individuals face in the workplace. Yet these commodities are sold under the illusion that a corporation is pro-LGBTQ and this is pride.


Credit pic: Flickr by André.

Don’t be fooled. Do not buy into the deceiving narratives large corporations lure you to believe. There is a distinction between a marketing tactic and true allyship — a difference often negligible in the public eye. Behind the scenes, the multi-million brands who had billboards celebrating queer individuals during pride month and claim to be an ally are actually the greatest oppressors. It is also the same corporations who claim to be an ally that only allocate a meager 2% of profits toward LGBTQ charities yet pour millions into funding anti-gay actors.

Look towards Adidas, which titles itself as an ally, then proceeds to be the greatest sponsor of the 2018 World Cup, which took place in Russia — a nation notorious for its anti-LGBTQ laws. If these corporations truly cared about bettering the lives of the queer community, they would use their political influence to speak up about systemic issues and partake in social movements

However, all hope is not lost. On the bright side, it is important to realize that rainbow capitalism is not utterly corrupt. Corporations design products to reflect recurring themes in mainstream media. Hence, the fact that large corporations have been creating millions of queer-based products proves that controversies and bias surrounding the community have gradually dwindled throughout the years

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want the queer community to walk the streets without fear of violence, go to work without fear of discrimination, and live an authentic, uncompromising version of themselves. However, true acceptance only comes when we end the comfort of megacorporations and shed light on the true struggles LGBTQ individuals face. End rainbow capitalism.


Written by Sophia Li 

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