The Brands Go Rainbow!
WHAT IS RAINBOW CAPITALISM?
The month of June is celebrated as Pride Month to honor the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and while pride is something to be celebrated everyday, this month specifically aims to bring people together and highlight the progress made by the LGBTQ+ community. In the backdrop of this celebration, however lies the phenomenon of rainbow capitalism. Claiming to boost LGBTQ+ voices, celebrate LGBTQ culture and advocate for their rights, companies capitalize by painting products in the rainbow shade, but take little to no concrete steps taken towards uplifting the communities within their workplace or outside.
How does it exploit the Pride Community?
For instance, let us assume that a shoe manufacturing company X, launched a special edition rainbow coloured, and so called “pride-themed” sneakers for the month of June. By just scraping the surface level of what it is to be queer, they advertise themselves as an ally to the LGBTQ community, they gain an entirely new consumer base comprising of allies and queer people. The same company X however, remains silent when the rights of the people from the community are curbed, and refuses to employ people who identify as queer.
Earlier, due to the presence of gendered stereotypes however, homophobic attitudes were prevalent, which made people hostile towards those who came out. The 21st century, witnessed large scale solidarity amongst the LGBTQ+ community, which led to a new found identity of the queer people in the economic space. This led companies to view them and other allies of the movement as “marketable” categories, and they, thus started to advertise their products as “pride must haves,” coercing customers into buying rainbow products as a way of displaying solidarity. Only the upper class elites however, could have access to these products, and they were largely inaccessible to the socially oppressed classes.
Rainbow products and the issue of Class
In order to put the issue of classes into perspective, let us first understand Karl Marx’s theory of capitalism. His theory of capitalism explains how capitalism is not just a mere competition between goods and services, but also arranges society into social classes – leading to social alienation. This social alienation also leads to the alienation of a person from the class they themselves belong to, limiting their contact with others. The theory also states that in order to prevent conflict that arises due to the division of people into social classes, this separation is vital. This implies that alienation will continue to exist in society as long as capitalism thrives.
Now, a problem that is often faced by people belonging to the queer community is disassociation from the identity which comes as a result of alienation. This creates a further rise in rainbow capitalism – people believe that they will gain access back to the community by consumption of these products. In the Indian context, queer liberation is limited to the pride parades and sexual identities of the upper class and caste. Those who do not fit into the ideal expectation i.e those belonging to the lower castes or lower status of the society are often ignored.
The upper caste continues to consume these products as they have been led to believe that they are supporting the pride movement. Hence, rainbow capitalism continues to exist, and with it, thrives misrepresentation and misinformation.
Cover Illustration: Teen Vogue