To Watch The Rainbow, Make It Rain!
This article is an excerpt from the August 2021 edition of the Finance Gazette Volume III. Click to read the whole edition
Have you ever noticed that rainbows are visible only after a rainfall? For the different colours to actually shine, water droplets are needed in the atmosphere, so that the colours can be dispersed and identified by humans in the form of a colourful spectrum. If you think about it, nature operates in an eerily similar manner to a capitalist society, which ironically is the most man-made construct to ever exist. Rainbows are associated with the LGBTQ+ community with the rainbow flag being symbolic of their identity.
The month of Pride began as a commemoration of the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the consequent movements that took place across the US protesting the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. The parades, the marches and the rainbow coloured streets as part of the movement serve as a reminder of the resilience and hardships that formed the community’s journey. Initially, a socio-political movement, the nature of the event soon became a celebration characterized by unabashedly pure love for people belonging to all shades of the spectrum. The entire world becomes generous and accepting of everyone for this period, with businesses donning a rainbow logo and rolling out products wherein a certain portion of sales is pledged to charities committed to LGBTQ+ communities.
No matter how colourful or cheerful the exuberant display of pride and the movements initiated by corporates to show their solidarity to the community seems, the truth however is in black and white. Their inclusion of the LGBT+ community and allying themselves with the rainbow flag is observed only after they realise that these communities will make it rain money for them. For the different genders to actually be recognized, they should be deemed as profitable markets (water droplets) by the corporations so that they actually shine and are identified as a spectrum by society. Thus, the targeted efforts of capitalists to imbibe consumerism and gentrification, deemed as inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of idealizing sexual diversity is known as Rainbow Capitalism.
The marketing efforts undertaken by businesses, firms and all the remaining wielders of the dangerous tools of capitalism is a genius mechanism devised to promote an inclusive public image while minting profits simultaneously. Fashion brands like H&M, Nike and countless others roll out products as part of campaigns, however, the portion of sales that is actually going to the charity is conveniently left out by the brand. Similar to ‘pinkwashing’ and ‘greenwashing’, rainbow capitalism is another way of the commodification of a marginalized section of society. The all-pervasive promotion of initiatives gives rise to lines for discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community as well, where the ideal white gay man is the perfect poster personality to generate more sales, overlooking the role of black or trans women in the pride legacy. Moreover, associating one’s organization with the cause through a consumerist donation mechanism gives a back-door to showcase their social activism whilst allowing for slacking off; ‘slacktivism’, hence providing a low cost & low effort hack to support causes. Thus, these efforts rarely show any tangible results that can be measured in any metric other than their paychecks. The one-fit approach followed by corporates to show their pride is reflective of the one-dimensional approach they nurse when executing their half-hearted marketing ploy. The truth is that there is no single cause to support, rather an all-pervasive upliftment of a suppressed community addressing multiple oppressions is the need of the hour.
Pride merchandising offers a cheap shortcut to orthodox institutions to realign themselves with the prevalent zeitgeist, covering up their long-standing history of antagonizing the queer community. Production houses and media entities loudly voice their support for the community through the inclusion of LGBT characters in their productions while being oblivious to their own hypocrisy given the glaring underrepresentation of the community in their operations. June is the most promotional heavy season for the alcohol industry wherein exclusive products targeting the community are advertised. This is one of the formative causes behind the high levels of substance abuse among LGBTQ+ people. Pharmaceutical giants which frequently sponsor pride parades are the biggest propagators of healthcare inequality for the LGBTQ+ community. The innocent symbolic act of following a rainbow theme has turned into a misleading branding technique that allows for propagating self-serving agendas under the pretext of celebrating pride. The rainbow logo offers a subtle veil to conglomerates so that they can transparently cover their non-inclusive hiring policies and contributions to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. Beyond the veil composed of a plethora of marketing gimmicks, the most evident reason for the sugar coating mechanism is overcompensating for lack of efforts in areas that truly promote pride.
The hypocritical overtones of rainbow capitalism clearly indicate the redundant gimmick the symbol of pride has been reduced to. In such an age, a new breed of businesses is the ones who are truly driving social change, the ones who do not feel the need to turn their logos rainbow for one month but rather promote pride all year round within the ambit of their original logo through their actions.
“Putting your money where your mouth is” - the simplest way to actually support the movement. Instead of spending millions in meaningless advertising efforts, genuine efforts to stay queer 365 days a year is the paradigm shift that rainbow capitalism must undergo to actually bring change. A few measures that can be taken by a well-meaning entity to become inclusive can include forward-thinking policy-making to ensure workplace equality in accordance with current needs, efforts to make product and service offerings gender-inclusive while ensuring a discrimination-free experience, integrating LGBTQ+ advocacy with other social identities (race, gender, ability), investing in year-round partnerships to promote LGBTQ+ causes instead of one time donations, vocalizing support for the community through actions including boycotts on dealings with homophobic entities and actively lobbying for LGBTQ+ rights.
While most corporate leaders believe their obligation to the LGBTQ+ community is fulfilled once pride month ends, they have failed to grasp the reality that rainbow marketing will not be enough in the long run, and it is in the best interest of their organization that they retire the rainbow logo and let their actions demonstrate their commitment to pave the way for co-existence of inclusive welfare and economic prosperity. For capitalists to truly see approval from the community represented by the rainbow, they have to make it rain and shower dedicated year-long efforts towards the cause of LGBTQ+ rights.
Author: Jayesh Rungta