Rainbow Capitalism

Kendall Dexter, Staff Writer

As pride month begins, it is important to acknowledge both the good and the bad that contribute to recognizing LGBTQ+ people in June. During this month it is common for various brands and companies to produce their own pride collections. These collections include many products covered in rainbow that seem to be a supportive form of recognition of queer people. Although many companies and businesses use profits from their pride collections to support the LGBTQ+ community, not all corporations have such good intentions. Pride month is an extremely important time for LGBTQ people everywhere, but capitalizing on queer people and their continuous struggle for equality is one thing about pride month that many members of the LGBTQ community could do without. 

What is Rainbow Capitalism? Rainbow Capitalism, also called pink capitalism, is when companies develop rainbow gear and products specifically for pride month, claiming to support the LGBTQ+ community, but they actually use the money to profit off of LGBTQ people or even donate to anti-LGBTQ causes. Rainbow capitalism can look like companies incorporating rainbow into their logo or developing a line of pride themed merchandise.

How does Capitalizing on LGBTQ+ People Impact Queer Communities? Capitalizing on queer people during pride month can be harmful to the LGBTQ+ community. One way in which this happens is that rainbow capitalism often ignores the history of pride. There is so much more that goes into being part of the LGBTQ+ community than the rainbow flags and products that consumers see once a year. By capitalizing on queer communities the opression and continued discrimination against LGBTQ people is ignored and glamorized. Not to mention, almost immediately as July first rolls around, any sight of rainbow is completely removed from retail stores. Why don’t companies choose to support the LGBTQ+ community all year round in the way that they claim to during pride month? During pride month especially, it is important to look into where your money is going when you purchase products from pride collections. Is the company truly working to combat anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, or are they just slapping rainbow on products to capitalize off of the queer experience?

What Companies Should You Keep an Eye Out for this June? Although not all companies contribute significantly to rainbow capitalism, there are quite a few that find themselves profiting off of the rainbow during pride month. Here are some businesses to reconsider purchasing from this pride:

  • CVS

Ralph Hise, a member of the North Carolina Senate, remarked that the anti-trans bill was meant to “protect the citizens of the state of North Carolina.” However, despite this, CVS gave Hise $1,000. The company also donated $259,0000 to 54 congress people who were perceived extremely poorly by the Human Rights Campaign. CVS contributions to causes that wish to harm LGBTQ+ people or prevent equality only makes their claim to support the LGBTQ community that much more upsetting. The CVS website reads, “We’ll continue to use our voice and the collective power of our employees, members, and customers to promote inclusiveness and equal treatment for all.” Shown by the significant amount of money that CVS has donated to those unsupportive of queer people only further establishes their contribution to rainbow capitalism.

  • Walmart

Since 2019, Walmart has donated at least $442,000 to 121 politicians who have received poor ratings from the Human Rights Campaign. Additionally, the company has donated $43,000 to state legislators in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas. These are all states pushing anti-trans legislation. This is all not to mention that Walmart was sued in 2015 for discriminating against a queer couple. Considering all of this, it is no doubt that Walmart’s pride collection is a prime example of rainbow capitalism.

  • AT&T

The company signed an HRC letter opposing anti-LGBTQ state legislation and has even partnered with LGBTQ hotline, the Trevor Project, to “Turn Up the Love” for pride 2022. However, AT&T has supported sponsors of anti-trans legislation. It has given $12,950 to Arkansas, $4,000 to Tennessee, $5,000 to North Carolina, $22,500 to Texas, and $17,500 to Florida. The company has also donated 2.755 million dollars to 193 anti-LGBTQ politicians in 2017 and 2018, along with over 1 million more dollars to lawmakers poorly rated by the HRC.

  • Comcast

Comcast has donated $2,116,500 to 154 anti-gay politicians. In addition to this, the company has donated $30,000 to sponsors of anti-trans legislation in Texas and Florida as well as donating $1,095,500 to 149 members of congress who were poorly rated by the Human Rights Campaign. This is yet another example of a company who falls short of supporting the LGBTQ community.

There are many more companies that contribute to the issue of rainbow capitalism. However, those mentioned above are of the most problematic. Other companies include American Airlines which has donated nearly $50,000 to senator Mitch McConnel who was actively working to prevent the equality act from passing into law, UPS which has donated $2,366,122 to 159 anti-gay politicians, and Home Depot which has donated $1,825,500 to 111 anti-gay politicians.

What Businesses Can You Trust When It Comes to Pride Collections? During pride month it is particularly important that consumers purchase from small businesses and companies owned by queer and transgender POC. This is the best way to give back to the community and ensure the advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. However, there are some widely known corporations that are largely successful in supporting the queer community during pride month. These companies include:

  • Converse

Converse has shown continued support of the LGBTQ community. It has donated to and shown support for LGBTQ organizations such as the It Gets Better Project, BAGLY, Ali Forney Center, and Out MetroWest. Not to mention its continued commitment to providing inclusive pride themed products fit for all members of the queer community.

  • Crocs

This company has teamed up with queer actress Ruby Rose to design crocs special for the pride season. Additionally, Crocs has donated to GLAAD, a company that works to ensure accurate representation of LGBTQ+ people in the media. 

  • Levis

Levis has created various pride collections that have continued to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. In their 202 collection, 100% of the proceeds from their pride collection went to OutRight Action International. This organization strives to end LGBTQ violence worldwide.

  • Skittles

During pride month, skittles has released a limited edition of skittles, said to “ditch the rainbow.” The company writes that “only one rainbow matters during pride.” From every package of pride skittles purchased, $1 is donated to GLAAD. This year, skittles has collaborated with a number of queer artists to design artwork for the front of each skittles bag. Not only is the surprise of not knowing what flavor skittle you are about to eat intriguing, but the company’s support for the queer community is sure to gain approval from the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Target

Target’s pride collections are by far one of the most popular lines during pride month. The retail store has a number of clothing products and home décor in support of the LGBTQ+ community. In the past, Target has donated $100,000 to GLSEN, an educational nonprofit organization that intends to gain acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in schools. This year, target has even partnered with small businesses HumanKind to develop pride themed, gender-inclusive, swimwear.

Purchasing from small businesses and companies run by queer, trans, people of color are by far the best way to support the LGBTQ+ community. Not only do these businesses provide products for the queer community year round, they are also constantly advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. Here are small businesses that I would strongly encourage you to support:

  • Humankind –  https://www.humankindswim.com/collections/sport 
    • Humankind was founded by Haily Marzullo, a queer woman in search of gender-inclusive swimwear. The company’s swim and sportswear is designed with all bodies in mind, intending to make you feel confident and comfortable in your swimwear. One of their biggest slogans is: “Wear What Suits You.”
  • TomboyX – https://tomboyx.com/ 
    • This queer-founded brand is passionate about standing for equality. The founders began the company with the intention of creating clothing to fit everyone regardless of size or where they fell on the spectrum of gender. They are dedicated not only to creating products for all bodies, but they also strive to represent and celebrate all people. 
  • Boysmells – https://boysmells.com/ 
    • This company was founded by partners Matthew Herman and David Kien who wished to create products that would fit their own needs. They desired fluid and essential products for daily use that would also be affordable. Boysmells has produced several original scents and continues to create accessible products for people of all genders who wish to make loving their identity a daily ritual.
  • A Tribe Called Queer – https://www.atribecalledqueer.com/ 
    • This business dedicates itself to empowering BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. They create their products with the intention of representing all people regardless of how they identify. The company believes that it is important to affirm your identity in as many ways possible. A Tribe Called Queer commits to validating the identity of whoever may come across their products.
  • FLAVNT Streetwear – https://www.flavnt.com/ 
    • This company was started with the intention of supporting confidence and pride. The business strives to prove the fact that being comfortable and confident in your identity and flaunting who you are to the world is the best way to express yourself. The company supports the LGBTQ community endlessly and hopes to impact many lives through their products and fundraising.
  • gc2b – https://www.gc2b.co/ 
    • This trans-owned company strives to provide safe and comfortable binding options for the queer community. Founder, CEO, and designer, Marli Washington, saw the limited binding options. They were, more often than not, uncomfortable and simply inadequate. gc2b is committed to creating safe binding options for trans people that are accessible and comfortable. These garments are of the first designes specifically for gender-affirming chest binding.
  • Queer Gear – https://shopqueergear.com/ 
    • The founder of this company noticed, after coming out, that there was a significant lack of clothing to represent queer identities. It is common for clothing targeted at LGBTQ consumers to be tacky, low quality, and nonsymbolic of many identities. The founder works with members of the LGBTQ+ community to create clothing that is both aesthetically pleasing and representative of queer people, making queer related clothing accessible and bringing attention to the importance of representing all identities. 
  • Gay Pride Apparel – https://gayprideapparel.com/ 
    • This first generation Mexican-American and LGBTQ+ owned brand focuses on authenticity and empowerment for year round pride. The company makes high-quality products suited for all identities. The business strives to bring pride to all people and make pride accessible. This brand ships discreetly packaged gear to your doorstep, so it does not matter where you live or how progressive your community is, you too can still show your pride.



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