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Pride & Profits: The Controversies Around Corporate Solidarity With The LGBTQ+ Community

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Flowers in shape of heart and forming a rainbow for pride

What's Pride Got To Do With It?

Article Posted June 1st, 2023

While many strides have been made for the LGBTQ+ community over the last half a century, there have also been many challenges, including new ones. One area of controversy has been how the commercialization of the LGBTQ+ community, especially around Pride Month, has been more about profits than standing in support of the cause. However, more recent controversies, are putting some companies to the test.

Pride Month is celebrated every June and commemorates the Stonewall Riots that took place in June 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The LGBTQ+ community has found a significant increase in representation, with many corporations promoting their brands and products using rainbows to show their support. However, this increased representation hasn't been without drama, with 2023 proving to be particularly difficult.

Overall, supporting the LGBTQ+ community can significantly help reduce stigma and discrimination. In addition, the financial contributions of businesses during Pride Month often helps sustain vital LGBTQ+ organizations, projects, and events. But what happens when that support is put to the test?

Leaving Out Part Of The Community

Businesses often fall short of providing full inclusivity to the diverse LGBTQ+ community. Those identifying as trans, nonbinary, and people of color (POC) often discover a lack of representation in numerous marketed products. If a company is going to celebrate the entire LGBTQ+ community, it may wish to consider making sure it is entirely inclusive of the marginalized groups within the community.

What Is Rainbow Washing?

Rainbow washing is when an organization claims support for the LGBTQ+ community, primarily as a marketing ploy to boost product sales but does not actually stand in solidarity with them. This can also be referred to as "rainbow capitalism" or "pinkwashing" and is essentially hypocritical, exploitative, or both.

Examples of rainbow washing can be businesses that use LGBTQ+ symbols in their advertising and do not demonstrate support through inclusive policies and practices or donate to LGBTQ+ causes and are simply profiting off the community.

Another example of such hypocrisy is when companies use LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising and present themselves as allies while also contributing to politicians who oppose LGBTQ+ rights and are actively imposing legislation that causes harm to the community.

This kind of superficial support also diverts attention away from the ongoing struggles and challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, leading many consumers to erroneously believe the struggles have ceased to exist, when in reality, they've been intensifying.

Furthermore, companies that benefit from marketing Pride and do not donate to LGBTQ+ organizations, while enjoying profits, often leave the most vulnerable of the LGBTQ+ population in need of advocacy, protection, and action.

Not All Pride Marketing Is Rainbow Washing

It's vital to understand that not all marketing during Pride Month is rainbow washing; however, it's not uncommon. To avoid being misled, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are their employment practices, and do they support LGBTQ+ employees?
  • Do they actively support the LGBTQ+ community through their resources, policies, and actions?

Genuine support for the LGBTQ+ community cannot be seasonal or merely represented by adding a rainbow emblem.

The Hate Is Growing

According to the FBI and other data-collecting organizations, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ have sharply risen by 70%. Acts of violence, intimidation, destruction of property, vandalism, and demonstrations have all increased dramatically since 2016 as such bigotry has become emboldened.

Only halfway through 2023, state legislatures have introduced more than 540 bills that go against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, setting a new record. Of these, over 220 bills are specifically aimed at individuals who identify as transgender and non-binary, and 45 of these new anti-LGBTQ laws have already been enacted.

LGBTQ+ Abandonment

In addition, there have been economic indicators that boycotts opposing LGBTQ+ inclusivity are financially affecting businesses. Over two months, Anheuser-Busch plummeted $26 billion in market capitalization through their collaboration with activist, and transgender woman influencer, Dylan Mulvaney. Similarly, Target reported a $10 billion loss in market valuation just ten days into the Pride line-induced boycott.

In response to these financial setbacks, both companies have since scaled back their LGBTQ+ supportive endeavors in various forms, which has left many in the LGBTQ+ community feeling abandoned as well as worried about what this means for the future. Many wish the companies would make statements that condemn such hate and bigotry and stand their ground by offering their full and unwavering support.

A Question Of Loyalty

Numerous individuals in the LGBTQ+ community and allies consider the pullback of support as a show of superficial solidarity and worry that it encourages hate groups to escalate violence against the community by validating such discrimination.

Amidst the intensified bigotry, many companies have taken notice of the boycotting of Target and Anheuser-Busch. Some of those who have touted themselves as a champion for the LGBTQ+ community may be starting to rethink their stance.

The War On Human Rights

The LGBTQ+ community is being increasingly persecuted against. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are significant global issues. When companies and institutions participate in profiting off of the LGBTQ+ community, they need to do so with a genuine commitment in advocating for their rights. Pride Month goes beyond mere celebration; it also represents where a company or institution stands in the war on human rights.

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