Corporates across the country display their solidarity with the LGBTQ community by incorporating the Pride flag in their display pictures and brand logos during pride month. Some extend their values by collaborating with LGBTQ artists on their social media platforms and coming up with quirky taglines.
June is recognized as Pride month. Pride is a political movement for and by the LGBTQ community. Corporates now “celebrate” pride with product launches and shallow campaigns during June. India saw an increase in this, especially after the removal of Section 377.
While this may be overly optimistic, it is only the brand’s excellent social marketing skills, not their allyship. The work can be commended but with caution. A number of brands use advertising and social media around socially relevant issues to look ‘progressive’.
This phenomenon is known as ‘Pink Washing’ or ‘Rainbow Capitalism’, the corporations’ belief that they can be allies simply by displaying the Pride flag. The effort does not go beyond the surface. While these gestures integrate the community, they cannot be considered activism.
In June 2022, Walmart released merchandise with slogans like “Lez is more”, and “Walmart PRIDE Walmart Proud”. However, in 2021, Walmart donated a million dollars to homophobic and anti-LGBTQ American politicians. Releasing pride exclusive merchandise and donating parts of the profits to LGBTQ funds tokenizes the community.
Usually, the rainbow logos and campaigns end within the first week of July. Other than that, they do not carry out any campaigns or hire LGBTQ talent in any month except June.
Similarly, while Netflix and Amazon Prime increased queer content, they engaged in erasure and homophobia in the workplace. A number of these LGBTQ stories are written, created by, and star cisgender and heterosexual people. Amazon Prime’s Modern Love Mumbai was hailed for its episode, Baai, for being a gay love story. However, queer people across the country slammed the episode for catering to cisgender heterosexual gazes and showing uncomfortable and awkward making out scenes between the straight actors.
In April 2022, Netflix USA fired 150 employees, a majority of them being POC or LGBTQ individuals. Additionally, the OTT giant refused to remove Dave Chappelle’s transphobic and biphobic stand-up special from the platform.
Putting a ‘Love is Love’ tweet is useless if the forms have two genders or a meager “choose not to disclose” option or if the company insurance is not extended to queer partners.
Similarly, in September 2021, Axis Bank announced a ‘Come As You Are’ campaign to extend banking services to the LGBTQ community. They announced joint accounts for queer couples and ‘Mx’ honorifics for transgender and non-binary people. However, soon, a WLW couple were denied a joint account because the employees were unaware of the provisions.
As a marginalised community this was becoming embarassing & humiliating.Thanks to the PR Blitz around this campaign, we walked into Axis Bank thinking it would be a safe space.We told them this was their policy, they needed to learn more about it & know how to talk to & treat us.— 🌈💪🏽Anisha Sharma💪🏽🌈 (@motherofbillis) October 31, 2021
Other instances include companies holding pride campaigns in June while working with or at anti-LGBTQ countries like Russia and China. Additionally, clothing and shopping platforms like Myntra and Bewakoof.com hold pride campaigns and collections. However, they either fail to hire queer talents or include gender-neutral options in their sorting options.
Diversity and inclusion are now buzzwords that every company uses without doing actual work within. Encouraging team members to have their pronouns in their email signature can signal to employees of all genders that they are coming into a welcoming environment. Sexual harassment guidelines are often framed with just women in mind, completely forgoing people of other genders. Each aspect of the company’s policies and procedures needs to be examined to ensure equity.
For dating apps, letting people mention their gender themselves and not including safeguards for non-binary and transgender people is an important step. However, apps like Tinder and Bumble only hire queer influencers for Instagram reels.
Corporations claiming to support LGBTQ people must do so through internal policies and true allyship. They must not do so through shallow campaigns and edited logos only during June.
To be allies, one must remember that pride is not celebration, march, reels, parties, and discounts. The real meaning of pride is an agitation led by LGBTQ people for queer liberation and equal rights.