What is Rainbow Capitalism and what can we do about it

What is Rainbow Capitalism and what can we do about it

In case you haven’t already heard of this idea, “rainbow capitalism” is when companies take advantage of the LGBTQ movement for their own profit. Basically, it’s the epitome of an empty gesture: rather than truly seeking to make a positive impact, brands celebrate Pride Month by doing something as meaningless as tweeting a picture of their logo in rainbow colors. In one sense, rainbow capitalism is so ridiculous that it’s funny – it’s amazing how out of touch so many huge companies are.

Image Credit - Distractify

But unfortunately, rainbow capitalism isn’t just a harmless joke – it’s often a cover-up. Hypocritical companies claim to care about the LGBTQ community while they undermine it at the same time. This quote from Stacey Lentz, co-owner of the historic LGBTQ symbol The Stonewall Inn, encapsulates the problems with rainbow capitalism:

“You can’t turn your logo rainbow on social media, call yourself an ally, and then turn around and make donations that fuel hate.”

Even for brands that aren’t purposely using disingenuous Pride promotions to create a false image, something about the whole idea of turning Pride into a commodity just feels wrong. When companies utilize the symbols, colors, and culture of Pride but don’t truly care about it, the result feels more like a violation than a celebration. Pride Month isn’t supposed to be about consumerism and performative allyship: it’s supposed to emphasize protests, rights, and liberation for all of the historically marginalized members of the LGBTQ community.

Image Credit - Me.Me

So what does this all mean for Pride Month and the larger LGBTQ rights movement? Are companies simply doomed to look outdated and exploitative, even if they try to celebrate Pride with good intentions? The answer is that although it may take some hard work, businesses (and consumers) ultimately do have the power to make positive, lasting contributions to the movement. Here are some of our thoughts as an LGBTQ owned business, by no means speaking for the whole community -

  1. Starting with the right intentions

    When businesses approach Pride with genuine goals of helping the LGBTQ community rather than making a profit or looking good, those intentions will likely come through in the end result.

  2. Asking the LGBTQ community for input…

    While this should be obvious, some companies don’t seem to realize that their actions might be better received if they had just sought input from the community. The simple act of reaching out to community members will inevitably enrich a businesses’ understanding of the meaning of Pride and make their collaboration so much more authentic.

  3. Remembering that Pride started as a riot

While it may be nice to imagine that all of the problems facing LGBTQ folx would be solved if we all just bought rainbow-colored merchandise for a month, it doesn’t quite work like that. Even though it might have been a big step in the past, simply proclaiming support for LGBTQ rights is no longer enough ­– businesses must make real commitments to making real change, all year round. Joining the movement can look a lot of different ways, from attending protests to contacting legislators, but an especially clear one is donating to nonprofits that support the LGBTQ community. Particularly by funding the hardworking local changemakers that directly impact people’s lives the most, businesses can have a tangible impact in making society a better place for LGBTQ people.

Fighting for social change is always easier said than done, and it’s no different with the struggle for LGBTQ equality. So, even though we’ve tried to use these guiding principles in Outpatch’s own celebration of Pride, that doesn’t mean that it’s enough. Still, there are some elements of our efforts that we are proud of.

For one, our Pride patches are designed by members of the LGBTQ community - shout out to Ally Morici and Bridget Coleman for the amazing designs they did for us.

@letteredbyally @bridget_coleman

Secondly, we prioritized supporting an organization that’s uplifting some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community. Proceeds from our Pride patches go to ORAM (Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration), a nonprofit helping asylum seekers and refugees globally who are fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

When it comes down to it though, there is always more to be done. And just like businesses must step up to keep progress moving forward, our actions as individuals are just as important. All of the principles of being a real contributor that we’ve just described apply to us as well. By taking small conscious steps (every day), we can work to make an authentic, passionate, and tangible impact in our own communities.

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