It’s the start of June 2018 and PRIDE month is officially here. For people like me, who are active members of the LGBTQIA+ community, pride month is something that we cherish, despite the fact that we also see the 11 other months of the year as months to celebrate our own personal journeys and individuality. It seems however that corporate conglomerates do not share our 12 month vision of LGBTQIA+ pride. The ‘Pinkwashing’ began in full force throughout the high street fashion outlets the second the clock struck 0.01am on the 1st June. Mass market consumerism is something that the LGBTQIA+ community are recently having to battle, as it’s tokenism and constant use of rainbows and embarrassing slogan t-shirts only touches the surface of what it means to be a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Now contrary to that potentially strongly worded introduction, I’m not going to sit here and say that all mass market commercial companies use pride as a marketing tool. There are plenty of brands that are utilising their platform to be able to give back to the community. However, is this enough?
In the past 12 months we have seen fashion street giants like Topshop refuse trans activist Travis Alabanza into their female changing room, and I have personally been refused entry and mocked for entering female changing rooms throughout the high street during the past 12 months. So do allow me to squint with confusion as Topshop begin their visual merchandising of their Oxford Street Flagship into a ‘Gay Paradise’ for pride month.
Having support from global retail powers is not all bad. For example, although Primark in the past have undisputedly been called under question for their human rights afflictions, their new PRIDE collection, which is a collaboration with Stonewall UK, is something that gives back to the community. 20% of all Stonewall marked produce goes straight to Stonewall, which is something that is encouraging, but still slightly futile. One question that comes to mind when we see so called ‘socially ethical’ products suddenly springing up is ‘does this match your brand ethos?’. Primark for example. Does this match their ethos? As we all know, fast fashion is a double-edged sword for many people across the world, as although it offers work for people in marginalised positions, it is often a huge violation of their human rights.
Also, in terms of PRIDE, is there a gender-neutral changing room in store? Do you have appropriate diversity and equality indices for your employees? If the answers to these questions are no, then we don’t want your sequined rainbows on a tank top. We want you to support the people within your company who are LGBTQIA+ first, so that we know your love comes from a real place.
The LGBTQIA+ community are a tight knit, strong and powerful force, and when it comes to pride, we want to be able to tell our own story. This is why I think independent, LGBTQIA+ run businesses should be the ones to be able to utilise pride to help support their endeavours. As an independent business owner, and someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your queer work and queer excellence being celebrated by other queer people. It’s a joyous occasion when we all come together to rally around something that’s important to us, and that feeling is something that mass-market brands just can’t re-create. If they do want to get on board with creating LGBTQIA+ content for pride month, first of all they need to start making their stores as inclusive as possible for all types of LGBTQIA+ people the other 11 months of the year. Gender-neutral changing rooms, non-gendered clothing sections, training to staff on gender-neutral pronouns, and so much more.
Lastly, how about you start employing a diverse number of people in your company so that we can be the ones to tell you how to do it! There’s nothing worse than being told to be proud by a company who’s CEO is a white straight fat cat.
Pride is about having fun, celebrating your story and being a part of other people’s, so lets ensure we have a gorgeous safe, fun and inclusive time.