Why Is It Difficult to Accept Pink Capitalism?

Posted by Vaishnavi Bhaskar

It is criminal to reduce the modern day markets and corporate culture to a simple demand and supply relation. Corporates don’t function in isolation, they thrive on tapping the most popular social trend and making themselves visible as the flag bearer of that cause.  This freedom to participate in whichever way they want makes them flourish in our liberal times. Pink Capitalism or the Pink Economy, is exactly that, it is corporates trying to appeal to modern liberal sentiments by incorporating the LGBTQ community (as long it doesn’t offend the majority view too much),using capitalistic ways with the sole aim of meeting their profits.

Gay Capitalism has given way to wide avenues such as queer tourism, nightclubs and clothing or fashion options. During the pride month of June, a common site of rainbows mixed with an air of ‘equality and love’ takes over advertising campaigns. When Corporate giants such as Facebook, Google, Uber and Coca-Cola take the bastion to further the movement, it is seen as a step towards larger victory by many.

A screenshot of Uber India after the scrapping of section 377

However, an introspection into the nature of action must also be undertaken. Are pink products with rainbows and inclusive advertising enough, or a more grounded and tangible step is required for these companies to prove themselves to be true supporters of the queer cause? With just photo filters and rainbow flags, very few companies have actually helped to provide tangible support to  the community and provide them a platform voice out their concerns. Actions must be consistent with the values companies propagate for their PR. Organisations identifying themselves as the flag bearers of the cause, need to work on making a more inclusive work space, providing equality in opportunity and creating a safer working environment for the members of the community.

Repercussions highlighted, with the advent of ‘Pink Washing’, concern more seriously, an aspect of lack of accountability, and an unwelcome shift in priority from the agenda of ‘queer liberation’ to that of ‘rainbow capitalism’. Corporates have been one among the more rooted institutions targeted by the movement, for their systemic oppression and lack of inclusion and equality of opportunity, to the members of the community. With studies accounting for lesser pay, fewer opportunities for promotions and more workplace harassment, there are many systemic issues plaguing the corporate world. With a pride symbol complimenting the company logo, portraying an allegiance to the cause, it would be erroneous to assume that below the all the boisterous support doesn’t lie a deeply rooted commercial cause, aiming only to achieve a larger market base.

The question then is, if such tokenistic support makes it difficult to hold the enterprise accountable for taking steps to help the cause. A corporate hegemony within a people’s movement, such as the LGBTQ movement, is also a cause for concern, with the motives of established corporate big daddies being limited to a purchase and a perception, doubts of whether purchasing pro- LGBT products or putting up profile pictures with filters, suffice as support enough to the movement, are also cropping up.

But all is not bleak, members of the community from otherwise conservative nations have seen this phenomenon with a more optimistic lens. With the mainstream covering and putting out a message of acceptance, they look at it as traction and as a step towards a more inclusive market, hoping for it to trickle down in to the social atmosphere as well. In their native hostile socio-political environment, even the option of a Facebook filter or a LGBT friendly itinerary is also seen as welcome move, and as an opportunity to represent themselves. Another positive perspective is that of the LGBTQ community finally being recognised for their market potential and influence. They hold that it’s only natural for corporate houses to see to the queer appeasement and cater to their demands.

China has unexpectedly, specially borne witness to a largely positive response in this regard. In 2017, an Alibaba owned shopping giant, Taobao organised for ten Chinese gay couples to get married in Los Angeles.  Adidas, Nike and Starbucks have also run successful pro- LGBTQIA+ advertising campaigns with companies like Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba also influencing the public by using the largely conservative Chinese SNS sites to put out messages in support of the movement and the community.

There seems to be no slowing down of the new economic wave hinged on the market potential of the queer community. However, one can only be reluctant about accepting a movement that claims to work for the queer cause but on the other hand fails to ensure a safe working environment and equal opportunities for the members of the community.


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