Banerjee: Pride isn’t about making money

Activism and support for the LGBTQ community shouldn't be made garish by greedy corporate branding focused on profiting on marginalized people.

Lexi+Ridout%2C+a+parade+participant%2C+marches+on+Dubuque+St.+with+flag+in+hand+during+the+IC+Pride+Parade+on+Saturday%2C+June+17.+The+parade+is+apart+of+LBGT+Pride+Month%2C+established+in+1969+to+commemorate+the+Stonewall+riots.+%28Ben+Smith%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Banerjee: Pride isn’t about making money

Lexi Ridout, a parade participant, marches on Dubuque St. with flag in hand during the IC Pride Parade on Saturday, June 17. The parade is apart of LBGT Pride Month, established in 1969 to commemorate the Stonewall riots. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lexi Ridout, a parade participant, marches on Dubuque St. with flag in hand during the IC Pride Parade on Saturday, June 17. The parade is apart of LBGT Pride Month, established in 1969 to commemorate the Stonewall riots. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Ben Smith

Lexi Ridout, a parade participant, marches on Dubuque St. with flag in hand during the IC Pride Parade on Saturday, June 17. The parade is apart of LBGT Pride Month, established in 1969 to commemorate the Stonewall riots. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Lexi Ridout, a parade participant, marches on Dubuque St. with flag in hand during the IC Pride Parade on Saturday, June 17. The parade is apart of LBGT Pride Month, established in 1969 to commemorate the Stonewall riots. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Anna Banerjee, Columnist

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June is LGBTQ Pride Month in commemoration of New York’s Stonewall riots, which took place on June 28, 1969. In the years that followed that date, the concept of pride and how it is represented, not only in the U.S. but in the world, have changed dramatically. Large pride parades with thousands of participants occur in cities across the country, such as New York, which hosts the largest celebration in the world.

After struggling for so long — and still struggling to this day in the U.S. and around the world — allyship demands more than a slogan or rainbow-colored merchandise. Pride is what keeps us alive, and it’s what we celebrate now.”

Because of the prominence of Pride and Pride-related events and issues, the commercialization of the month by corporations has become increasingly common. Much of this is seemingly innocuous, with clothing companies selling pins and “Pride sections” in stores like H&M and Nike, but other marketing seems to ignore the principles behind Pride and the struggles the LGBTQ community has faced. Absolut’s rainbow-bottled vodka handles and other marketing tactics of that ilk have also been called out.

The entire concept behind Pride is a celebration and a remembrance of a community that has faced violent oppression and marginalization. Companies piggybacking on the current cultural relevance of Pride is hurtful. It serves as a reminder to LGBTQ people that our identities are a passing fad on which advertisers can happily capitalize.

There are many companies headed by people who genuinely support LGBTQ rights and have for decades, but when this support only manifests itself for a week or two in June — never any other time of the year — it is a little disheartening. After struggling for so long — and still struggling to this day in the U.S. and around the world — allyship demands more than a slogan or rainbow-colored merchandise. Pride is what keeps us alive, and it’s what we celebrate now.

It becomes especially harmful when Pride is packaged over items that historically hold negative or dangerous connotations. LGBTQ people have an elevated risk for substance abuse, yet alcohol companies continue to market toward the community during Pride despite routinely being asked to stop. Even if these manufacturers want to express their support of a community that has been harmed by them in the past, the sentiment is lost in translation. Instead of coming across as a supportive gesture, the drinks are still marketed toward the community with little warning or attempts to protect them.

The commercialization of Pride takes away from the focus of Pride. Allowing companies to capitalize on people’s support for LGBTQ people puts the focus on the corporations for their supposed good deeds. Even if proceeds are being donated to LGBTQ funds, there still is a focus on the “allies” for supporting the community, not the community itself. It is certainly generous for companies, especially small businesses, to devote part of their sales to LGBTQ donations, but there comes a point where the only question left to ask is, “Do you care about us at any other time of the year or just when it’s best for business?”

The best thing companies could do for LGBTQ people is to make public their stance on the community and donate year-round to their causes. Or, even better, enfranchise actual marginalized speakers to do the promotion and support of the community instead of straight allies running multimillion-dollar corporations.