What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Rainbow capitalism raises questions about corporate commitments and Pride Month’s purpose

Throughout the month of June, LGBTQ communities in the U.S. have been celebrating Pride in cities and states around the country. And corporate America has made itself a part of that, too, by increasingly tapping into Pride Month and trying to showcase its efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. But there are concerns Pride Month has lost some of its political focus. Lisa Desjardins reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Wodruff:

    Throughout this past month, LGBTQ communities in the U.S. have been celebrating pride in cities and states around the country.

    Corporate America has made itself a part of that, too, by increasingly tapping into Pride Month and trying to showcase its efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.

    But there are concerns Pride has lost some of its political focus and important issues are not being addressed.

    Lisa Desjardins has our conversation.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, companies not only celebrate the month, but actively market around it as well.

    There's a term for that, rainbow capitalism. Walmart and Target have Pride-related ads. Ikea has Pride-themed love seats. And Capital One Bank had this feel-good, splashy video.

    But, for many LGBTQ individuals, it's hardly good times. Several states, including Florida, have passed new restrictions, including on transgender athletes. Hate crimes remain too frequent. Murders of trans individuals are at a new high.

    It's leading to questions about the purpose of Pride Month.

    Karen Tongson is an author and professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Southern California.

    Some people might think corporations are using Pride symbols more, people are putting rainbow symbols on their Twitter feeds, and they think that's support. But why would you say it's a concern?

  • Karen Tongson:

    Well, I think we must understand that it's a gesture of support, but gestures of support, nice words, visible images of solidarity aren't always enough. They're often never enough, actually.

    And so it's not that people are angry that corporations are showing some effort at making a gesture to LGBT communities, but it's like, what backs it up? What is there behind that gesture? Is there anything substantial and material that will actually help transform the worlds that we are in and make it better for us?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We're having this conversation, you and I, right now because this is the last day of Pride Month. But what is the tradeoff there?

    We see corporations making a big effort during Pride Month, but does it last all year? Or how do you think about that?

  • Karen Tongson:

    Well, there are endless memes and Twitter accounts devoted to corporations in the month of June showing an image of a happy LGBT couple or person and then corporations on July 1, which reverts back to exactly the same iconography of straight couples and business as usual.

    And all we hope is for sustained attention and commitment from these corporations, organizations and anybody who expresses allyship beyond the month of June into perpetuity on our behalf.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Some corporations that are doing this say, we're raising awareness and, in some cases, we're raising money, for example, donating some of the sales that they're bringing in from LGBTQ merchandise to causes that are related.

    I hear you saying you want something substantial. What do you believe that corporate America should be doing?

  • Karen Tongson:

    I think that many of us in the LGBT community are interested in a larger series of systemic changes, policy changes at every level.

    And some money towards maybe a popular cause here and there, sometimes, like marriage equality was a kind of mainstream popular cause for a period of time, isn't enough to address the deeper systemic issues that often perpetuate the oppression of LGBT peoples, especially of color, those who are unhoused, trans people who are — have violence committed against them, all of the things that actually many Americans are fighting for around systemic equality, the end of white supremacy, et cetera.

    And I think LGBT folks see that they're part of a broader movement and that we need to make deeper changes to our system, to our culture in order to have a more just world.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We're now seeing sort of more visible presence, more attention on different parts of the LGBT community, the transgender community, nonbinary individuals, meaning people who don't identify strictly as male or female.

    Can you talk about the tension and the communications surrounding those groups and how they see this movement?

  • Karen Tongson:

    I think that we have to consider whether or not certain groups who've attained certain privileges within that LGBT acronym have to maybe consider abdicating some of their agenda in order to incorporate what would benefit the most folks under that LGBTQ+ acronym and whether or not there's true inclusion, acceptance and understanding for trans, nonbinary folks, and others in the community, those especially who don't share the same privileges and wealth, so that we can achieve and attain a truly transformative change from our perspective.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Important conversations that we will keep following.

    Karen Tongson of the University of Southern California, thank you so much.

  • Karen Tongson:

    Thanks for having me.

Listen to this Segment