The Problem of Rainbow Capitalism

Written by Caitlin Curtis

The Stonewall riots of 1969 are known for being one of the most important events in changing the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Due to the discrimination that they faced, members of the community frequented bars and clubs that welcomed them. When they were ordered to be shut down and members removed, those at the Stonewall Inn fought back. During pride, we are called to remember those at Stonewall and those who continued the fight. 

The true meaning of pride is beautiful. The overwhelming sense of inclusivity and love that can be felt at a pride march is like no other. Over this month so far, I have reflected on what pride means today. 

What’s the problem then?

Every June, the logos of multi-million-pound businesses become rainbow coloured in symbolic support for the LGBTQ+ community. My question is: Is the support for the community is simply symbolic? I applaud the attempts at normalising the lives of people who do not fall under the bracket of straight, cisgender, white males and yet I can’t help but feel anger at the hypocrisy. 

Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s all ‘show their support’, in the form of a rainbow logo or a ‘pride collection’. And yet, Walmart donated $1.2 million to the federal government including $596,000 to Republicans, where only three candidates supported the Equality Act. The same is apparent for Amazon, who donated $648,500 and for McDonald’s, who donated $213,000. I worry that yet again, history has been white-washed and male-centralised by capitalising on events such as Stonewall that were started by black trans women such as Marsha P. Johnson. 

I worry that companies are now ‘supporting’ the movement to increase the number of queer customers they receive and ultimately profit from them, rather than making any real effort to improve the rights of queer people by encouraging liberation for the community. Hiding behind the flag and calling themselves ‘allies’ is nowhere near enough to eliminate the endless suppression that the movement deals with and goes nowhere near as far as it should to educate its customers and employees in queer history, historical oppression and the current oppression facing the community. 

From doing this research and reflecting on this, I have concluded that firstly, rainbow capitalism needs to be regulated. I feel that companies should have to prove that they are allies of the LGBTQ+ community before they are allowed to slap a pride flag on their packaging, call it allyship and profit from it. Secondly, which I have argued for some time now, there simply needs to be more education for all ages about the LGBTQ+ community. It is no longer enough to argue that people are ‘just ignorant’ or ‘a product of their time’. There are more than enough resources available today to become not ignorant or to evolve. The more that we learn about the history and about the current lives of the queer community, the more we can genuinely support the movements and those who fight for them. 

To conclude, I would like to remind those who are reading to remember the real meaning of pride. I love the rainbow, parties, glitter, and fun, but I will spend more time this month remembering that the community still faces immense amounts of oppression and remembering those who helped bring the rights of queer people to where they are today.