As you probably know, it’s LGBTQ Pride month and celebrations are taking place across the world. But Pride, like so many things that start out as a grassroots movement, is not what it used to be. These days, Pride is not an “of-the-people” celebration, but one sponsored by the richest (and sometimes corrupt) corporations. These mega corporations are using Pride to target a new niche market and gain queer consumers. Pride has become less about the actual LGBTQ issues and more about how corporations can make profits while appearing to be progressive. Whether it’s Mormon-founded corporation Marriott Hotels and Resorts targeting queer consumers to “Be You, Stay With Us,” Anheuser-Busch departing from its usual bro-ish football ads to have gay-themed Bud Light ads, or the new Chevy Volt “coming out” as electric, Pride is being used to push products to queer consumers.
While the corporate takeover of Pride is disappointing in general, there are two corporations that stand out for their douche-baggery in using Pride not only to push sales, but are doing so to cover up their un-inclusive/anti-queer politics of the past. American Apparel and Target earn this week’s Douchebag Decree for trying to use Pride as a marketing ploy while engaging in noninclusive and queer-phobic business.
- Employees submit a full length photo of themselves before they are hired (based on attractiveness).
- CEO Dov Charney has been sued over sexual harassment by employees for allegedly hiring based off of his own sexual interest, being crude and making sexual remarks to employees, giving someone a vibrator at work, and interviewing employees in his underwear.
- The company brags about caring about issues of immigration but yet employed and underpaid immigrants in California.
- They have repeatedly used problematic images of women in their advertising (and are now using farmers as accessories in their ads).
- They refused to carry plus-size clothing until last year when they realized they could make a profit from carrying clothes for women of size (check out our coverage of the XL model contest).
But American Apparel is trying to sweep all their controversial publicity under the rug and show how progressive it is when it comes to Pride. In celebration of Pride month, American Apparel released a series of t-shirts with the line “Gay O.K.” In addition to these t-shirts, American Apparel is being heralded by many queer organizations for using trans model Isis King in ads for the new “Gay O.K” advertisements. These shirts are being added to the “Legalize Gay” clothing line released after Prop. 8 passed and being sold under the mission to promote equal rights for the queer community.
While I won’t deny that it is great that American Apparel hired Isis King as a model, it is unfortunate that they feature her only for a LGBTQ marketing scheme. Additionally, the whole “Legalize Gay” clothing line and the new “Gay O.K.” Pride shirts seem progressive, the truth is that American Apparel is only “progressive” when the public eye is present. The entire marketing chic of American Apparel is that it is known for being exclusive—you have to look a certain way to work there, you have to be a certain size to shop there, and you have to have a certain income to afford their prices. This corporation has never been an ethical company that cared about marginalized groups, it has always marketed to thin, hip, wealthy people. American Apparel has built its entire business on being exclusive, and this exclusivity makes it completely antithetical to the inclusive idea behind Queer Pride. I’m sorry American Apparel, but we’re not buying your message or your merchandise.
In 2010, Target donated $150,000 to the conservative Republican goup PAC MN Forward. They got a lot of attention for making this sizable donation particularly as it backed anti-gay canidate Tom Emmer.
So this year, when Target paired up with the Family Equality Council to create a series of Pride t-shirts, it felt like Target was trying to make amends for its endorsement of a homophobic candidate. Target pledges to donate all the proceeds from their Pride shirts up to $120,000.
But there are a few problems with these shirts. First of all, creating a series of Pride shirts does not change the political endorsement and, like American Apparel, this act is just the work of another corporation trying to seem progressive in the public eye while being hypocritical in its actual business practice. The other thing to note is that these shirts can’t be found in any Target stores; they are for online sales only. Lastly, matching $120,000 does not cancel out that $150,000 donated to anti-queer cause. For starters, not that Target could take back that donation, but if they were trying to make an apology for their previous donation, they are still $30,000 in deficit of that money. Target, these t-shirts do not cancel out your homophobic political actions of the past and we can see right through this action. Donating money does not fix this much bigger problem.
American Apparel and Target you have earned our Douchebag Decree for trying to coporatize LGBTQ Pride although you have been anti-inclusive and homophobic. While Pride might only happen every June, it takes more than a recognition one month out of the year to truly be a company that cares about queer issues.
What do you think of the corporate takeover of Pride? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!