Corporations and Pride: helping the cause or helping themselves?

Image By: Jamie Windust

Bethany Griffiths

Students at Cardiff University, and the creator and editor of Fruitcake Magazine, Jamie Windust, have their say on the rise of corporations getting involved in Pride this year.

Each year we gradually see more and more corporations getting involved in Pride Month, with this year perhaps seeing the biggest rise in corporations ditching their usual logos for the Pride rainbow colours. Companies attribute their rising involvement in Pride Month to the promotion of equality, however is the truth of the matter a very different story?

Despite claims made by corporations that they are getting involved in Pride to promote inclusivity and equality, the usefulness of their campaigns is up for debate. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have argued that some corporations are simply using the Pride campaign for their own gain without actively engaging in real change for LGBTQIA+ people.

Jamie Windust who identifies as non-binary recently tweeted about their experience in Sainsbury’s where their ID was scrutinised by several members of staff because they felt that the ID ‘didn’t look’ like Jamie. This incident is at odds with Sainsbury’s current Pride campaign which boasts inclusivity and solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. Quench decided to reach out to Jamie to learn their views on the ‘pink washing’ of Pride. They have written the below piece:

Image by: Poppy Marriott

I write this as a non-binary femme activist and magazine editor, who is collecting their thoughts the day after Pride in London. What is supposed to be one of the biggest celebrations of queer excellence in the world, has fallen into a cycle of poor inclusion, and mass corporate pandering.

This year’s parade saw me walking with an amazing student organisation that highlights the inaccuracies within the student LGBT+ experience and aims to change these through empowering events and talks. Student Pride used their platform to highlight people ‘Beyond The Binary’ this year, with us all walking with placards of people who identify outside of the gender binary system of oppression.

Whilst waiting for Pride to begin, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of vague, mass market and corporate floats that were by our side, using interesting LGBT+ slogans and puns to highlight their level of inclusion in this year’s parade. Pink washing has become synonymous in recent years with fashion companies using pride motifs to adorn onto their products, however I found myself surrounded by insurance companies, food companies and entertainment industries all supporting Pride, with loud queer music, and bright colours and energy. This coupled with the surprise protest from TERFS (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), at the start of the parade, and Pride In London allowing them to continue walking down through the parade route, had me feeling confused.

Now don’t get me wrong, this level of support is something we do need to be able to see, a moment that 20 years ago just wouldn’t have happened. It’s not that queer people don’t appreciate their support during Pride, it’s what happens with those companies after pride that really matters.

Are they offering inclusive training for all their staff? Do they allow trans customers and staff to self-identify in a work place that is fair for all? Recently I was treated unfairly and transphobically by Sainsbury’s after they continued to berate me about my ID, complete with a lot of misgendering and general confusion. However, they were at pride. Their march was adorned with bright colours and wild enthusiasm. As someone who has been poorly treated in their stores, I would rather they used the money and time and energy that it took them to create this march, to inform and educate their staff and employees on trans rights, so that we can actually work from the ground up, to create an inclusive shopping experience.

To avoid sounding like the angry queer (however that’s just what I am at the moment), there are ways that corporations can support pride in an inclusive manner. We aren’t saying don’t celebrate pride with us, we are saying do better first. Listen to us, work with us, and make your companies a safe space for us all. Or, support independent queer businesses run by, and for, queer people, so that we can create a thriving queer environment within our own community.

Maisie Marston

Pride has come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969; now we can opt to eat our Skittles out of an inconspicuous white bag so they don’t detract from the rainbow that really matters, and kit ourselves out with £99 Adidas Pride trainers. Needless to say, Pride is a very different occasion today with more and more commercialisation. I am constantly torn by corporations jumping on the rainbow-covered bandwagon as it demonstrates very clearly that society has on the whole accepted LGBTQ+ people (because after all, I don’t think Lynx/Santander etc. would sacrifice profit to make bold political statements, perhaps I’m being cynical though). Although, particularly in the instance of making special Pride themed products, it often feels as if it is a way to turn a profit and add something trendy to their brand. It would be nicer to see these companies extending their support beyond ‘celebration’ and start making LGBTQ+ employees feel welcome and comfortable in the work place, as well as using their global influence to press for political change where it is necessary if they wish to have a role in supporting LGBTQ+ people.

Alys Hewitt

In the wake of Pride Month celebrations in recent years, there has been a surge in corporations – including Santander, Lynx and Costa – leaping on the bandwagon to show their support for LGBT+ causes, through actions such as launching limited edition packaging or logo changes. Whilst you could argue that this is a positive step, one that normalises and disseminates the messages of Pride month, and one which in some cases actually raises money towards LGBT charities and causes, in my view it is nothing more than a calculated marketing move, using Pride as an opportunity to make money and construct a sympathetic, humanitarian façade. Indulging in these proclamations of support and solidarity only once a year is ultimately not that helpful or productive in the strive towards equality. These efforts merely serve to boost the reputation of companies by affirming how diverse and inclusive they are, perhaps even to attract more custom by appealing to LGBT individuals, through reminding them that they ‘care’. However, I struggle to see how plastering a rainbow or topical slogan on an existing product will do anything to enact change, and it is neither brave nor revolutionary of these huge companies to do so.