Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Everything near you, from Rainbow flags to packaging of any and every item will be available in stores, in June. Suddenly all the stores are filled with multicolored displays and clothes emblazoned with ‘Love is Love’ and other slogans from LGBTQ+ rights movements. Be it a limited edition of rainbow-colored watch strap from Fossils or Amazon’s Alexa telling you all Pride facts, rainbows are seen coming out from everywhere.
While Rainbow is a sign of solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community, the commodification of the same by the corporates makes it less accessible to the people who want to celebrate. This makes the ‘celebration’ exclusive and inaccessible to a lot of individuals.
Are these brand promotions a genuine attempt at supporting the LGBTQ+ community or are they just rainbow-washing?
Rainbow-washing allows people, governments, corporations that don't do any tangible work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year, to slap a rainbow on everything and call it allyship.
Although Pink Capitalism is extremely important for a country like India, where it can add to 0.6% of growth to the GDP, it's equally important for corporations to take a wider understanding of this prospect.
Creating more job opportunities for transgender people and also appealing to the LGBTQ+ audience via their products will be more impactful.
Gender-neutral toilets, using gender-appropriate pronouns in the workspace, and obtaining accurate identity cards and documents could be a step in making a difference before thematizing the office in rainbow balloons. Full inclusion of queer people in a workplace comes from the sensitization of the staff to create a supportive infrastructure that helps queer people feel secure and be themselves. India’s LGBTQ+ community is not a minuscule minority. With studies accounting for lesser pay, fewer job opportunities for promotions, and harassment in the workplace, these issues need to be tackled in the corporate world before painting a VIBGYOR. Approximately 33 million strong people refuse to stay silent any longer to reclaim equality.
There are absolutely no clothing brands in India that reach out to the Non-binary population of the communities.
Corporates are all sunshine and rainbows on the internet but in reality, at the ground level, they do not have enough jobs for the very same people.
Some retailers manufacture their merchandise in countries where it is either illegal to be gay or one where their fundamental rights don’t matter.
A statement from an H&M representative said the items in its Pride Collection were made in China, Turkey, Bangladesh, and India.
The companies need to be held at a higher standard of allyship in such a way where LGBTQ+ people are genuinely recognized and supported rather than attempting to appear hip-hop on the current bandwagon and making money while they are at it.
"People are still going to suffer the same injustices. They'll just be able to drape themselves in rainbow gear while doing so" says Karen Tongson, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Southern California.
In India, homosexuality got decriminalized on July 17, 2018. While rarely enforced, Section 377 has some serious consequences on the Indian LGBTQ+ community. The Law has left individuals open to harassment, blackmail, and abuse as no anti-discrimination protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity. Same-sex marriage along with adoption being illegal in the country, they never really can have a family.
The bandwagoning of social rights before the genuine intent to support by these brands is preposterous when the stereotypes and biases remain a work in progress in the companies.
One could say, In India, the advertisements by brands to support the LGBTQ+ community have to lead to increased awareness about the community among people and they won't be wrong. But, Corporations could be powerful allies using their privilege and deep pockets to put people to do real work. Co-opting color schemes and using rainbow hashtags is just not it.
Numerous major incorporations use rainbow colors to show their “support” for the LGBTQ+ communities. Most of the corporates using rainbows donate a part of the sale made during pride merchandise to LGBTQ+ charities. The donations, in themselves more than anything are but a slight peck on the proverbial forehead of the movement.
H&M is one such brand using the movement as a guise of profitability. Its ‘Proud Out loud’ collection is a fairly popular pride collection that has gained a considerable consumer base. However, only 10% of the sale is donated to the queer charities while the rest are kept for the company itself.
Couple this with the presence of manufacturing plants in queerphobic countries and we have just another brand looking out for themselves. Such actions mark the celebrations dry with tags of affirmation.
On the outer level, while the brands don’t fail to show support to the movement, the only time we see them supporting the same is in Pride month and they’re capitalizing over the seasonality of the month. Perhaps, the solidarity of the brands also ceases to wear away as the Pride month ends, that too is a limited edition.
Undeniably, there is immense symbolic power in the representations of queer people on posters and screens. Nevertheless, this significance is short-lived, if not accompanied by companies’ genuine commitment and support for their fight for equality.
The capitalization of Pride and queer identities have become more urban-centric because the people who can afford the heavily priced ‘Pride merch’ are the ones living in cities or the richer people leaving out a mass section of the country. The cash-rich minority of the LGBTQ marching out in the Pride Parades have the privilege of buying ‘exclusive limited edition merch’ from these corporations. The people of colour/ minorities/ not-so-rich are left out.
As we delve deeper into the race and gender of not just the LGBTQ community but otherwise too, there is an abundance of people for whom Pride is a rallying cry, let alone buying from these companies, they struggle with the perception about their identities.
Who really can afford to be proud here? Whose pride is it?