Analyzing the emptiness of rainbow capitalism

Target’s Pride display in clearance. Mariantonia Mejia/PantherNOW

Mariantonia Mejia | Staff Writer

When I came across Ash + Chess’s Instagram post in early May announcing that they designed merchandise for Target’s new pride collection, I was cautious but excited. I am generally distrustful of corporations pandering to any one community, as companies will always choose profits over people at the end of the day. 

These corporations tend to participate in “rainbow capitalism,” in which companies market to queer people because they are a rich resource for money but do not actively support them behind the scenes. It’s especially true this year, as Pride Month ended and I did not sense sincerity from most of these corporations throughout the entire month.

For example, in 2021, AT&T released a rainbow Twitter banner despite donating $56,295 to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign. McConnell actively opposes the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender and more.

Despite this, I’d been following Ash + Chess for a while and was excited about the idea of a queer and trans-owned business that stood with the community, instead of plastering rainbows and “LOVE WINS” on a t-shirt and calling it a day.

Almost immediately, that excitement turned to horror as the political landscape surrounding queerness and the trans community grew more grim by the day, which did nothing but embolden transphobes and homophobes. 

My expectations of acceptance by the straight community were low. Fresh on my mind was the recent Bud-Light fiasco, where far-right conservatives blew up, shot and used any other means of destroying Bud-Light cans, all because the cans feature a print of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

So, when customers began to claim the Pride merchandise was sold in the children’s section of Target – it wasn’t – they destroyed it. They also wrecked Pride displays and threatened to bomb Target stores.

Target bowed down to their wishes. 

Before Pride month had the chance to start, Target removed many items from their in-store Pride display and moved them to the back, where the “offensive” material was less likely to be seen. 

Their excuse was that they were trying to protect their employees.

As a multibillion-dollar corporation, it must be possible to create an in-depth security plan for its workers while continuing to display its Pride collection. 

Unfortunately, added security would mean Target would have to fork over more money than they’d most likely be willing to spend. So rather than stand by the community that they have claimed to support, they took the most cowardly route. 

But Target isn’t the only offender. 

Many corporations are participating in the anti-queer-and-trans trend and remaining silent to protect their profits. Starbucks workers, for example, are on strike over claims that they have not been allowed to put up Pride decorations throughout their store, despite being able to do so in previous years. 

Though the company denies these allegations and accuses the union of lying to influence labor talks, I am reluctant to trust a company that fights against its workers’ unionizing

While many companies are continuing to advertise to the queer community during this time, we LGBTQ+ folk need to refocus our efforts when it comes to Pride. 

Pride is, at its most basic, a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

It started as a protest and with the recent political landscape, it’s time we return to those roots. 

Donate to mutual aid, organize to change legislation, call your representatives or volunteer with organizations fighting for the rights of queer people. 

As this Pride month comes to an end, we must stop looking to corporations to save us. They refuse to put their money where their mouth is and many have stopped supporting us altogether. 

It is time that we, as a community, look to our elders as an example and shift the focus of Pride to what it once was: Revolution.


The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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