Has anyone else noticed what is usually the most colourful month of the year is… well not so colourful?
June has become synonymous with rainbow flags, parades with literal bandwagons and hashtagged campaigns. Though Pride initially emerged to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in 1969 its immersion into mainstream culture has certainly dampened its political roots somewhat. Despite this, it’s still a time for the LGBTQ+ community to make their voices heard. However, this year we’ve seen previously vocal corporations be displaced with virtual tumbleweeds.
The assimilation of pride and subsequent conversations about LGBTQ+ rights into the public consciousness has occurred in line with society’s increasingly liberal outlook. Consumers now expect brands to be vocal on social issues and are more likely to purchase from a business that is deemed to be socially conscious. In fact 70 per cent of consumers want to know what brands they support are doing to confront social and environmental problems. Small gestures like placing a flag outside their door are risk-free moves and the incentives to champion the LGBTQ+ community grow as the general support for the LGBTQ community does.
While I’m not exactly expecting parade floats with rainbow flags and thousands to line the streets in support during a global pandemic, it’s curious that brands that were keen to boast their ally-ship are now remarkably quiet, even on social media. I’ve not even received my scheduled Mailchimp email with all the branded rainbow leisurewear I can don this summer.
Usually at this time of year debates would be raging over the problematic ethics of the corporatisation of Pride. Would the profits from rainbow coated merchandise be going towards helping those in the LGBTQ+ community? Are all the various complex issues that people face being flattened into one diluted umbrella heading of ‘awareness’? What about companies draping flags that have manufacturing plants in China? (A country that has shameless anti-LGBTQ+ legislation).
There’s a whole myriad of issues stemming from the corporatization of Pride, but this year the issue seems to be not so much the problematic ethics of a brand’s presence, but how deafening their silence is.
In my eyes the silence from huge corporations suggests a few things. First of all their so-called “values” are merely an umbrella for interchangeable buzzwords to exist – largely the ones that are on people’s lips at any given time.
Before we go any further it’s important to highlight what I mean by values. Values are the things that you find inherently important, they are the principles you care about when no one is looking. It goes without saying, but there’s room to hold more than one belief and often social causes come hand in hand. But in the past month it’s become incredibly clear that brand’s values are dictated by which singular issues are commanding conversation and have the most social currency.
Right now there is a more attractive proposition that provides greater visibility and easy internet points – the Black Lives Matter movement. Just before I go any further I want to make it explicitly clear that I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be throwing their weight behind the BLM and using their money, privilege and influence to put an end to racism at home and further afield. But these issues should not be isolated so starkly from each other and arguably the support for one issue complements efforts for another.
Brand’s non-involvement in a cause they once championed and scramble to shout loudest about another highlights the fact they don’t understand or care about the intersectionality of the issues.
Secondly it appears that for a lot of corporations their values are defined by the marketing budget, rather than something they inherently committed to. And look I’m not here to to say companies are supposed to be the arbiters of moral goodness, but they’ve shown their true colours this year, by jumping ship on a less profitable and less fashionable cause – rather than supporting both.
Discarding one cause in favour of a more profitable one is literally the antithesis of values. When the word is used so flippantly it begins to lose any sense of its original meaning.
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement is not a trend, it’s not something you co-opt once a year to get your kudos from Karen on Linkedin, it’s real people’s lives.
Shouting when it is convenient is easy and it’s become clear that the corporation’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights is dictated by profits.
If you live in Northern Ireland and would like to donate to or find out about the support available for people in the LGBTQ+ community, you can head to The Rainbow Project’s website.
If you live in the Republic of Ireland and would like to donate to or find out the support available head to Belongto.org.
Click here for a list of LGBTQ+ charities available in Ireland.