This year’s Pride season felt a bit soul-sucking with all of the major corporations shoving their rainbow product lines down our throats. It feels like around every corner, another huge name brand is profiting off turning a movement into a trend. So, how can we be ethical consumers in a market that is over-saturated with choices and brands appealing to us based largely off what they’re selling rather than whom they’re supporting?
Throughout June, it felt like every time I logged onto social media, a new influencer or obscenely good-looking model was sporting an article of clothing from a major retailer who had created a Pride line out of thin air. The bombardment of advertisements that popped up across social platforms, within emails, and in store-fronts was overwhelming and often exhausting.
Admittedly, when I sat down to write this article, my intentions were to express a restrained rant on how capitalism is ruining Pride Month. This may be an unpopular opinion. To be fair, plenty of major corporations have increased the visibility of queer communities, and they are donating some of their sales to LGBTQ non-profits, campaigns, and projects.
For instance, many companies are donating large portions of their undertakings to organizations such as the It Gets Better Project, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and OutRight Action International. This includes corporations like American Eagle, Nordstrom, and Levi’s, who are donating 100 percent of their proceeds.
So, it’s difficult to sit here and claim that capitalism is the enemy, and we’re all doomed no matter what we do. Because these corporations are giving back, even if it’s ever-so-slightly. And the visibility they are contributing to is in many ways incomparable and opening up spaces that have not been there before.
But Pride Month comes every year, and with it, so do companies and brands who are seeking to capitalize on the new, hip trend: queer liberation via rainbow shirts and accessories. And as consumers, every year, we eat this up. Seriously, articles this year bore titles such as “This is How to Rock the Rainbow in Style this Pride Month” and “What to Wear to Pride 2019 If You’re in Need of Some Outfit Inspiration.” Could it be that Pride Month is starting to feel like the new Coachella?
Even the president, who is actively against showing supporting to the LGBTQ community through his anti-queer platform, went ahead and discounted his “Trump Pride Tee” at the beginning of June. This was immediately followed by pleas from the queer community for consumers to buy from anywhere else. Seriously, anywhere else.
So, beneath all the glitter, pride hats, fanny packs, and whatever else one can afford to order from the myriad of retailers jumping onto the month’s trends—what is left?
This year was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. That means some of us have been bravely leading this fight for half a century. And some of us are fairly new to the struggle, which is okay too. The only thing that matters is that we’re here, and now, the celebration has made its way to the public.
However, what becomes especially frustrating with the magnitude of commercialization that has taken over Pride Month is that the focus has shifted from what people are fighting for to what people are wearing. After the Pride collections fade out and become discounted will the support stop too?
Let’s be clear—just buying an LGBTQ t-shirt does not make you an ally. However, buying the shirt does not make you an evil spawn of capitalism, either. What I am learning now that Pride month has pased is that intentionality is everything. In doing a little research behind the companies donating their substantial earnings to support the LGBTQ community, this capitalism nightmare becomes a little easier to navigate. It’s easy to spot which brands are being genuine allies and which ones have simply show up to appropriate queer pride into monetary earnings.
Buying from the Pride collections is wonderful if the money is going to the organizations that are working hard to make a difference within queer spaces. However, buying products simply to post to an Instagram feed without any awareness behind what this clothing means can be problematic. So, spend your hard-earned money on the decadent rainbow look, now and when Pride season comes back again. But make sure to take time to educate those around you about what it took to bring LGBTQ oppression into the national spotlight and into the national store-fronts.
Being an ethical consumer and vigilant queer person or an ally does not mean it is your duty to fix everything wrong in the world. However, being a supporter does mean that Pride Month cannot just be limited to thirty days of the year, a limited-edition tee, and a post to social media. With this 50-year anniversary coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how we sincerely contribute to the LGBTQ community and possibly try to do better as we patiently wait for next June to come.