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What is rainbow capitalism and how do I actually support queer creators?

Jun 11, 2023

What is rainbow capitalism and how do I know that I’m actually supporting queer companies? 

So, rainbow capitalism is the term for the way that on June 1st, many, many, many companies all of a sudden have a rainbow logo and are talking about like, “We support Pride!” even if for the rest of the year, they do literally nothing to support queer people or in fact donate to the kinds of folks who are trying to get people like me eliminated from the world.

So, it is a way of pandering to the LGBTQ+ population because they have realized that we have dollars to spend. 

Now, rainbow capitalism is something that is very controversial that has a lot of different discussions about it within the queer community because on the one hand, I do not think that our Pride celebration should be dominated by the floats from Wells Fargo and AT&T and Verizon and the Police.

On the other hand, when companies think that you are worth pandering to, it means that you are accepted enough that your dollars are worth spending. 

Target, over the last week or so, there has been a lot of controversy about Target in particular because Target has been kind of dogpiled by a bunch of people on the right for their yearly Pride collection this year and people were going into Target stores and violently threatening associates, tearing apart displays.

And so as a result, they decided to move the displays to the back of the store and to also remove some items from being in store in order to support the safety of their workers. 

And many people have had very strong responses to this.

Because on the one hand, it’s rainbow capitalism and like painting themselves and the flag, who cares?

But Target as a company actually has been remarkably queer-supportive for a very long time.

For ages, Target has let people use the bathroom that aligns with the gender they identify us.

They don’t ask.

They don’t care.

They’re not going to force it.

So even in states where there were anti-trans bathroom bills, Target refused to obey those. 

Target has put out huge Pride Month collections for many years, long before most other stores or major companies were doing it.

And it was one of the first companies that was like, “We will take your dirty gay dollars.” 

On a corporate level, I agree that there is a lot of cowardice in removing merchandise from the store or moving it to the back of the store.

But on a worker level, a lot of the folks who are working for low wages at Target are queer and trans people or otherwise marginalized.

And what we talking about here is not a bunch of people coming into the store and complaining to the manager about the stuff that’s being sold.

We are talking about people who are coming into the store and destroying things or threatening people with violence.

There is no one who is getting paid $15 an hour who should be putting up with that. 

And since we all know that cops are also the bigots.

It’s not like they can just call the Police and be like, “Come to Target. There’s another bigot.”

Because cops aren’t going to help like at the bestest, they might show up in like half an hour to an hour, but by that time, this violent bigot is going to be out of the fucking store.

And the people who are working in security at Target, they also aren’t getting paid very much. 

So on a like worker level, Target making this decision to remove some stuff from their stores and move it to the back of the stores in order to keep their workers safer is one that I can’t disagree with.

I wish that there is a way on a corporate level for them to stick to their principles here to say like, “We are not removing the stuff from store. It’s important to have there. We are going to keep it.”

But I do not know how on a realistic level they do that without subjecting a whole bunch of people who are young and marginalized to a whole bunch of danger. 

So, there’s a comment that like if someone sold a pair of socks, the cops would be like, “Whatever.”

Actually, not true.

So a friend of mine, their husband had been working in security at Target and it takes them – they will – security will not stop people and try to detain them unless they are stealing a certain amount of goods.

And even then, the police would take an hour to two hours to get there with someone who had stolen multiple hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. 

Police don’t respond.

They don’t, especially for burglaries.

Any kind of like property crime, you’re lucky if a police officer comes at all.

And so again, like I think that when we are talking about the reality of the people who are working in this space, doing something to protect them is a good call. 

Rainbow capitalism again in general, not great.

Lockheed Martin, probably shouldn’t have a rainbow logo.

Why are they doing that?

What’s that about?

What are they actually doing to support queer people? 

There’s a thread on Twitter that I saw that talked about like what companies should do if they are going to put out a statement saying that they support queer people for Pride Month and it was stuff like do you have a way for people to change their pronouns and name in your system?

Is it quick and easy?

Are you making sure that people are using folk’s pronouns that they want to be used?

Are you making sure that people have full access to healthcare if they need gender-affirming care?

What are you doing to actually meaningfully support the queer and trans folks who work for your company?

If you aren’t doing anything for them, why are you now suddenly saying you support that community when it’s June? 

On the other hand, it is better for companies to want our money.

It is better for companies to do the math and see that it is more beneficial for them to make a whole bunch of rainbow merch and drip themselves rainbows for a month than for them to think that it’s not, because when they think that it’s not worth it, that is a sign that we are in big, big trouble.

As much as it sucks, we live in a capitalist hellscape where the acceptance of corporations of your identity in life is a big part of what tells the world what is acceptable, what is normal, what is here to stay. 

MeUndies for instance, is a company I get my underwear from.

In 2021, MeUndies had a ton of different of Pride patterns that they were selling for the month of June.

They had at least five that I can think of off the top of my head. 

In 2022, MeUndies had two patterns for Pride Month.

That’s a sign of things going backwards.

That is a sign of problems. 

Rothy’s who makes shoes that are highly – they are expensive but they are like super durable, super comfy.

I love my Rothy’s.

They did Pride shoes in 2020 and 2021.

They did not do Pride shoes in 2022.

As far as I can tell, they’re not doing any this year. 

When we see rainbow capitalism takes steps backwards, that is a sign of a troubling larger trend that things that previously were considered, worth marketing, worth pandering to no longer are, that we are no longer enough of a money block for them to risk the backlash from all of the bigots and assholes. 

So I have a lot of very mixed feelings on rainbow capitalism.

I am a person who brings a lot of nuance to this debate because again, in a country that is run by big money, you want big money to care about your group.

It sucks that that is how it is, that is how it is. 

So, the thing that I would say is, if you are going to be buying Pride stuff, get some stuff from Target for sure.

Target is great.

Their stuff is always super cute.

I get stuff from their Pride collection basically every year.

And find people who are queer and trans who are making stuff themselves. 

Part of what makes Pride collections at places like Target really appealing to people and more accessible to people is that because it is mass-produced and is produced at larger scale, it is often much more affordable.

I can get a Pride t-shirt at Target for like 20 bucks, whereas, this shirt on my website is more than $20 because it’s print-to-order.

So there is a premium associated with not creating a whole lot of stuff that you then have to figure out how to sell and offload. 

People who are individual queer and trans creators have to charge higher prices for the items that they make because it takes more of their individual time, more of their resources in order to make those things happen.

Mass production, producing at scale reduces the cost per item of everything, which reduces the sales price per item for everything.

And so, if you have a budget that you’re thinking of for your Pride Month merch, try to figure out what portion of that you can set aside to support queer and trans creators who are making their own stuff and not just the major corporate entities. 

And like look, if you are broken, all you can afford is the stuff at Target, you do you, right?

I would love to support more queer and trans creators and I do not have the money right now.

I don’t know that I’m even going to be able to get anything at Target this year for my Pride collection.

But if you have money, see if you can spread it out.

Places like Twitter and Instagram tend to have a lot of people who support each other, retweets each other, put together large threads of queer and trans creators who have stuff that you can buy for Pride Month.

So, those are good places to look. 

You can also in a lot of Etsy shops just kind of like read and usually people who are queer and trans who are making stuff that is for queer and transpeople, self-identify in their bios and that kind of thing.

So, look into that. 

If you are looking to buying stuff from a big corporation, look into like how do they actually treat the queer and trans people who work there, are they treating those people well or poorly?

That’s another thing that you can look at. 

And again, this is hard time for most people.

Most people have not seen significant pay increases in years and they have seen significant cost increases all across the board.

Housing is more expensive.

Gas is more expensive.

Groceries are more expensive.

Bills are more expensive.

Everything is more expensive.

And we are trying to pay all of it with the same amount of money that we had before at most.

So if you are someone who has money to spare, make different choices. 

But if you are someone who is in a tougher position, make the best choices you can and I don’t think that I can judge if what you need to do is buy your stuff from Target or from another big corporation that can afford to mass-produce these things.

It would be great if we could all afford to buy stuff from queer creators, and that’s just not reality for a lot of people, particularly people who are queer and trans.

We make a lot less money on average than people who are cishet.

And if you don’t have money to spend on these specific queer and trans creators, do the best you can, right? 

There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, which doesn’t mean like do whatever the fuck you want and it doesn’t matter and there are never any consequences.

It means you’re never going to be perfect at this so figure out which bargains you’re making.

Figure out what the exchange is for you.

Is the exchange for you that you need something to wear to Pride so you need to buy something and you can only spend 20 bucks on it?

Is the exchange for you that you just save up and you buy something new for Pride every few years?

How do you want to do it? 

But figure out what the bargain is that you’re making and accept that the choices that we are making have consequences that are wider than us.

If you are buying the stuff that’s mass-produced at a place like Target, almost certainly, there are people in the global south who are suffering to make that cheap for you. 

So just understand that the choices that we are making have far-reaching consequences.

Do the best that you can.

You are never going to do it perfectly.

You are never going to be a hundred percent clean in terms of how you do these things.

Your hands will always be dirty, but be aware of the bargains that you are making.

Make them with a clear mind and accept that those are the bargains you have to make right now. 

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