Corporate Pride

A few days ago I went to the mall. Boy was that a mistake. Not only are impoverished homosexuals prohibited in shopping malls, but now I am going to write the entry that finally at long last will alienate the rest of my readership. What I saw in that mall was supposed to be inspiring, but it made me real angry.

The stores had all decided that this was Rainbow Month. They festooned their displays with full-color posters and platitudes about Diversity! Celebration! Equality! Love being Love! and of course Pride! Pride! Pride!

I was supposed to be heartened by this. I was supposed to be glad that we went from being the enemy to being celebrated by retail outlets. I think the vast majority of these companies don’t care one bit about us. We all know exactly why they turned June into Rainbow Month. Do I need to spell it out for you? Fine. D-I-S-P-O-S-A-B-L-E I-N-C-O-M-E. The companies think that if they represent us they’ll get our pink dollars. And we fall for it again and again. The worst part is that I am no better than anyone else. Put a g-ddamn bear paw on something and I’ll be drooling with consumerist lust. Advertise a product with some woofy spokesperson and I’ll buy whatever is being sold. But just because I am gullible does not make this practice ethical.

Marketing to gullible queers is one thing. Doing so under the pretense of allyship is something else. If some corporation is going to claim that love is love and that it is proud to support diversity, said corporation had better be damn well prepared to back those claims up. In 2019 Lurkistan, the gays are beloved and Pride is cool, so it is the easiest thing in the world to market your allyship — and you appeal to those progressive straights who want to show they love the gays too! Where were you in 1989 Lurkistan, when gays were still dying of AIDS because drug cocktails had not been invented yet? Were you supportive allies then? Were you providing healthcare for your sick employees? Were you tending to their hospice needs? Or were you firing them as soon as you found out they were gay, because you had an image to maintain and a reputation to protect? Where was your pride then?

How about in the early 2000s, when gay marriage had not been legalized yet? Were you providing same-sex health and insurance benefits to the partners of your gay employees? Or were you arguing that offering same-sex benefits were too expensive and too complicated? Were you festooning your stores with rainbows and pride displays? Or were you too apprehensive about scaring off the straights?

Okay, fine. I am being totally unreasonable. Corporations have gone on a learning journey just like the rest of us, and now they are much more understanding and tolerant of sexual and gender diversity than they once were. Are they supporting their employees as they transition, by funding hormones and surgeries via insurance benefits? For that matter, are they even supporting their trans customers by insisting on gender-neutral bathrooms in those aforementioned malls?

Okay, maybe supporting trans people is too difficult. How about poly people? Does any employer anywhere support benefits for complicated families with several primary partners? If one member of a triad gets sick, can that person depend on the benefits provided by one of their partners’ employer? No? That would be too expensive? Too complicated? Too prone to abuse? Where have I heard those arguments before?

Okay, let’s forget about those weird poly people. How about those regular old gays and lesbians, the kind you are proud to support? How about those gays and lesbians that are persecuted in foreign countries, including some of the foreign countries in which you do business? Aren’t a bunch of those t-shirts you sell manufactured in Bangladesh? As of this writing, LBGTQ+ rights in Bangladesh are not good. How about that wonderfully soft Egyptian cotton? How are gay rights there? Oh, but you couldn’t advocate and pressure local governments on LGBTQ+ issues. That would be colonialist in a way that regulatory capture for your financial interests would not.

Okay, improving the conditions in an entire country seems difficult. You do know that some of those Bangladeshis who sew your fancy t-shirts are themselves gay, right? Are you doing anything to make sure they are safe from persecution? What’s that? They aren’t actual employees of your company? You have no jurisdiction on how they are treated? That’s just too bad.

Funny, isn’t it. Any time supporting gay rights or being an ally would cost you money or require some political courage, you shy away. You have all kinds of nice lip service for the affluent gays who have money to spend, but are you willing to put your principles where your mouth is? Do you even put up your pretty rainbow displays in the Southern United States just as you do in progressive Lurkistan? (The majority of you are multinational, after all.) If you are not willing to do these things, then maybe you really aren’t an ally. Maybe the next time we become stigmatized or unprofitable, you’ll throw us under the bus too.

And that, Virginia, is why impoverished homosexuals are not permitted in shopping malls.

(Of course, dear readers, your favorite shopping establishment is a true ally which does things properly. Right? If you asked these questions of that establishment, surely it would pass with flying colors. Right? Right?)

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19 thoughts on “Corporate Pride

  1. Oh, Pinkwashing is alive and kicking. I agree with you.
    But (and there’s always a butt, right, Lurkie) there ARE some businesses that do contribute to great causes (Target, Levi’s, Converse, Harry’s, H&M and even Apple?) there are others that totally Pinkwash their bigotry (AT&T, Comcast, Home Depot, FedEX and Pfizer all put out rainbows in Pride and give to the bigots). But yes, there’s a lot of rainbows and all that during June/July to squeeze the Benjamins from the gays with plenty disposable income but what about small towns? Does the Target in Tuscaloosa also have the rainbows and backs up faggotry? I don’t know. I’m a spoiled city boy who rarely goes to the Bible Belt and avoids small Midwestern towns like the plague. Maybe I should show my pride more here, though.
    And now you’ve made me think that I need a rainbow flag flying in my balcony or otherwise I’ll be one of the bad gays. Bad Lurkie!

    XOXO

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    1. re: the companies you like (H&M, Converse, etc): what do they do that you appreciate?

      I wish there was a report card for these companies that outlined their strengths and weaknessess. Maybe HRC or somebody publishes such a thing, but I have not checked.

      To be clear: I do not actually expect companies to be LGBTQ+ positive. If I could afford fast food and ate chicken, then I probably would eat at Chick-Fil-A without compunction, because I believe that it is important for us to engage in commercial transactions with organizations that are politically opposed to me. Shared interests avoid war. But if a company toots it Pride horn and then does not follow up, I get mad and then my readers get alienated.

      I am approximately the last person who can nag you about putting rainbow flags up on your property, given that I am apparently too chicken to wear a discreet rainbow pin on my shirt. But you are entirely correct that I am a bad Lurkie.

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  2. You didn’t alienate me Lurky…I agree completely with you!!!! I’m not really a mall shopper but one store I go to is in a mall, but luckily right by the doors. I was amazed at the number of specialty store and even macy’s that were hawking gay pride wares. While the message was nice to see, I couldn’t help but feel we were being whored out. It didn’t seem right to be making money off us gays. You know they were just hoping to capitalize on the, as you say” gullible gays” That’s why when I approached my boss and manager, I wanted to do a pride display….but I wanted it to be informative and educational. We had some great feedback and many people did stop to look and read.

    I would have had more respect for the retail sector, for those you did carry a offering of goods, if they would have donated 100% of the proceeds to some LGBTQ charities and foundations. Maybe some did, I don’t know. Most of my few pride paraphrenia and gay literature, I still get at gay only bookshops.

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    1. You caught me. I thought you would be alienated for sure, given your vocation. I will try harder next time. Maybe I can come out as a homocon, or mansplain how drag is inherently transphobic.

      I do not feel that companies need to donate 100% of their proceeds to charity, but I do expect them to practice what they preach.

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  3. You are, of course, absolutely right and quite frankly I agree with all the points you’ve made. Back in my activist days in the 90s, the LGBTQ+ organization I volunteered with operated on the proverbial shoestring budget. NO ONE would give us any operating or programming funds — not government, not charitable organizations, not corporations. I know because I did a huge mailout campaign soliciting assistance. Most didn’t even bother responding. A few sent back extremely rude letters. We did receive ONE corporate donation, however — from a local Winnipeg dairy owned and operated by the Communist Party of Canada (established to provide jobs and income to their own party members because no one would hire commies, of course).

    So now, when I see the massive corporate presence at Pride Parades and in Pride retail, I too can be cynical and somewhat bitter about their participation. “Oh yeah? Where were YOU thirty years ago, you bastards? You wouldn’t give us the goddamn time of day back then, would you?”

    On the other hand, we must grin and bear it, dear Lurkie, because in our capitalist consumer culture, a significant presence in marketing signifies social acceptance and status. It’s a marker of normalization and sends a message to haters about our place in society versus theirs. Everything is a two-edged sword. So yes, corporate allies are co-opting LGBTQ+ culture and struggle but it strengthens and supports the message that we are a valued and accepted part of mainstream culture. So I welcome it in public and just grind my teeth in private.

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  4. Hooray for commies? No wait I take that back. Communists say a lot of nice things about social justice issues, but communism is awful.

    If I grind my teeth any more I will have nothing but enamel stubs in my mouth. But as usual you are right: being catered to by retailers is a sign of our social status (which is equivalent to our spending power). Having said that, if these retailers are not sending those signals of social acceptance in rural Alberta then they are betraying us.

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    1. That’s fine, I guess. What happens to us when those organizations jump off again?

      I’m very sorry about George, and what happened to the Affable Despot. I hope your vacation goes well.

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  5. Looks like y’all have made it up there with Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, mall wise. Progress?

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    1. I guess. I wonder how St Valentine and St Patrick feel about having their identities co-opted for monthly color schemes?

      I can’t speak for the other gays, but it’s pretty clear nobody is going to sit on my lap and make wishes.

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      1. I so totally forgot about those two, and my oldest granddaughter was born on St. Patrick’s day! At least during the month of June, no one has to wear rainbows in order not to get pinched by varying strangers. I’d have to cut a bitch, and I’m not even remotely violent!
        I’d sit on your lap, Lurkster, but I like you too much to break your legs 🙂

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  6. I could not disagree more with this post! I don’t know where you are getting these ideas, nothing but drama, lie and half truths. Sometimes I really don’t understand how you just runoff at the mouth like this. Well actually I thought you wrote another excellent post but I thought strongly disagreeing with you would make you happy because it seems that’s what you wanted. Then again deep down not really, you actually wanted our approval.

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    1. You caught me. I was just looking for your disapproval.

      Do the malls in the little towns near your farm put up pro-Pride displays? I imagine that there are a bunch in Ottawa, but I don’t know about more rural settings.

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  7. Lurker, I’m about to do a little post on that, I don’t see any store anywhere in Ottawa selling anything to do with pride. My area is mostly ok with gay people but there is no desire to do anything pride wise.

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  8. you’re not alienating me. I stopped going to Pride fests because they were vendor fairs. “Retile your bathroom” . “Open a checking account with us”. It suits them when it’s for dough, but chances are – and you can check their corporate givings to candidates……and they’re not to ones who support LGBTQINOP rights. They do it for the greenback.

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    1. Blobby! It is so nice to see you.

      I wish it was easier for us to see what candidates our favourite pinkwashers donated to. Maybe it would give them some accountability.

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