Rainbow capitalism is how many major retailers up their profits during the month of June. Avoid contributing to the problem by supporting queer-owned companies as well as businesses that have a history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Each year in June, every major retailer you walk into just about smacks you in the face with rainbow everything when you walk in the front door. I’ll admit that, like most, I have easily been swayed by Target’s Pride section in the past. This means that I, also like most, am contributing to rainbow capitalism.

To help you (and me) avoid falling victim to the season’s faux-supportive advertising, let’s talk about what exactly rainbow capitalism is and some easy ways to recognize it.

A gif of Dan Levy on stage, saying Happy Pride into a microphone

Source: Giphy.com

What is rainbow capitalism?

With Pride month upon us, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “rainbow capitalism” just a few times on TikTok. The term, also often called “pink capitalism,” refers to the adoption and creation of LGBTQ+ stances and merchandise by companies that don’t otherwise actively support the community.

The intention here is to make a profit (typically during Pride month) — not to actually fight for equality.

A gif of Spongebob Squarepants making a rainbow over his head

Source: Giphy.com

 

Rainbow capitalism feels performative and not authentic. Companies have rainbow dollar signs in their eyes and suddenly become oblivious to the harm they have done in the past to the LGBTQ+ community.

Why is rainbow capitalism harmful?

So, why not just be happy that companies are trying to show their support? Well, rainbow capitalism is harmful because it takes money that could directly benefit the LGBTQ+ community and puts it in the pockets of large corporations.

For example, during Pride month, many people buy merchandise from major retailers like Target and Walmart. However, there are plenty of other queer-owned small businesses also trying to sell their Pride merch.

Even worse, some of these big corporations profit off being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, but have policies that negatively impact their LGBTQ+ employees or donate money to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and charities.

How to spot rainbow capitalism

It can be difficult for the average consumer to differentiate between companies trying to actually do good and those who are just trying to make a buck. Some surefire signs that a company just wants your money include:

  • Rainbow logos – While adding a rainbow to your logo in celebration of Pride seems like a wonderful gesture of support, it is not a replacement for activism and does not mean a company automatically supports the LGBTQ+ community. (Editor’s note: Here at Money Under 30, we’ve turned our own logo into a rainbow for Pride month; however, we are also actively working to increase our editorial coverage to reflect the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community.)
  • Sponsorships – Sometimes companies sponsor entire Pride events or floats in parades, but they do so to earn a profit, not to support LGBTQ+ folks. For example, Budweiser creator, Anheuser-Busch, has sponsored Chicago and Boston Prides for years. But the company has a history of supporting lawmakers who back anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
  • Mildly (or completely) offensive products – It’s clear that many companies that release everything from t-shirts to tote bags to socks and more have never actually spoken to a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Many of their slogans end up making a mockery of a marginalized community.

Companies notorious for rainbow capitalism

Many big corporate companies are guilty of rainbow capitalism, unfortunately. Even the companies attempting to now change their tune have a history of discrimination, whether in employment or pay. Here are three specific examples:

  • Tesla – Tesla tops the list. Their recent tweet letting everyone know they were “100/100 for 7th year in a row for LGBTQ equality” as a company is simply an inaccurate description of the company’s history. Multiple times, founder Elon Musk has tweeted and mocked gender pronouns and transgender rights.
  • Walmart – Not only did Walmart come out with some of the most embarrassing Pride products this year (shirts that read “I MAY BE STRAIGHT BUT I DON’T HATE,” and “HOMOSEXUAL ALIEN”), but they have a long history of discrimination as a business. For starters, they donate millions each year to Republican lawmakers who continuously support anti-gay and anti-transgender bills that limit the rights of these groups.
  • Home Depot – Home Depot is yet another company that, despite posting a monthly Pride post on social media and dutifully saying they’re thinking of their LGBTQ+ employees, has offered their support to politicians who blocked the Equality Act. Additionally, one of the co-founders has long since been a donor to the Republican party and politicians who are unsupportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

Companies that are supportive all year

Thankfully, more and more companies are supporting the LGBTQ+ community in respectful, and actually helpful ways. Here are a few examples of companies that are doing things the right way:

  • Google – Google is a fair company to all of its employees, LGBTQ+ employees included. Their Pride page clearly outlines what LGBTQ+ causes they’ve donated to in the past year. It’s clear that they support the community all year long and have added features to their products that can help the LGBTQ+ community thrive.
  • Intuit – Intuit also has a history of being good to their LGBTQ+ employees. They’re known to offer inclusive benefits, plus they have a Pride Network, which is an employee resource group. Intuit offers these chapters all over the country, with 300+ members.
  • Nike – Nike commits to helping nonprofits further their work with communities like the LGBTQ+ community. This year, they recognized 18 organizations that are helping to advance LGBTQ+ causes. They offered a total of $625,000 to these businesses.

How to avoid rainbow capitalism

Avoiding rainbow capitalism is the only way we may be able to put an end to it. There are some easy steps every ally or community member can take to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride:

Buy from LGBTQ+ artists and creators

By buying Pride merch (and non-Pride merch) from LGBTQ+ artists and creators, you can make sure that your money directly benefits the community. Don’t limit this practice to just June, however. LGBTQ+ artists, creators, and business owners operate throughout the entire year!

If you live in an area with a small or even non-existent LGBTQ+ community, consider purchasing from online creators. Etsy is a good place to start. For Pride merch, my personal favorite shop is DeerQueer.

Read more: 7 LGBTQ+-owned small businesses to support this Pride month

Participate all year, not just in June

Pride isn’t the only time to buy from LGBTQ+ businesses, or donate to causes, or attend educational events. Local colleges often have speakers during the school year who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and may be open to the public.

Another example includes art exhibitions put on by LGBTQ+ artists throughout the year.  Attending these events makes it easier to ensure that any money you spend goes to members of the community.

Invest in businesses that support LGBTQ+ causes all year long

Besides physically supporting LGBTQ+-owned businesses, allies and members of the community should invest their money in the right place as well. If you follow SRI investing principles and find robo-advisors who can help automate these investments for you, your money can go towards making positive change.

In addition, you can talk to your financial advisor and make a plan to invest in LGBTQ+ communities. Your advisor is there to make sure that your investments align with your activism and money goals.

Read more: Socially responsible investing: how to become a conscious investor

Do your research before donating/buying

It’s easy to believe the first thing you read about a company, but you need to do your due diligence and spend a few minutes looking into your investments, charitable giving, and the products you buy. Ask yourself if the companies and causes you support truly are attempting to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ folks.

Summary

This year, take a minute before you buy your Pride merch from a big-box store online. These stores could be key players in the perpetuation of rainbow capitalism, which negatively impacts the LGBTQ+ community, while putting money in the pockets of wealthy corporations.

When large companies line their racks with rainbow flags and other merchandise, they’re looking to profit and to profit only. Throughout the year, they may donate to causes or people who are looking to take away the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Supporting queer-owned businesses is a starting point for putting rainbow capitalism to rest.

Featured image: CREATIVE WONDER/Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Total Articles: 104
Christopher Murray is former Senior Editor at Money Under 30. Chris received a BA in English Literature and Gender Studies from Smith College. He now lives in Maine with his husband where he spends his free time watching reruns of The X-Files and dreaming of traveling in a refurbished VW Bus while writing the next Great American Novel.