The problem with rainbow capitalism

by Sabine Waldeck
July 15th, 2021

A popular topic this Pride Month was rainbow capitalism. You may have heard the term being thrown around, but what exactly is rainbow capitalism? To put it plainly and in context, it is when companies market themselves with rainbow colors to seem like they are an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, but are only doing so to look good, not to do any good. This is comparable to the performative activism that has been discussed regarding the BLM movement.

Although companies may think by showing off rainbow colors that they are helping by showing at least some recognition, decorating a company logo in rainbow may do more harm than good. On one hand, you can make the argument that it is a good thing. That it is showing that being accepting of the LGBTQ+ community is no longer taboo, and becoming more common. However, the contrary can also be argued. Businesses only participating in Pride Month by adding some color to their branding or making one post of acceptance is not enough. This undermines what Pride has been and is about.

As much as Pride is a celebration of being who you are, it is also about fighting to be that way. It has always been a battle for people of the LGBTQ+ community to be accepted, and Pride Month is a commemoration of that. Companies only participating in Pride with rainbow capitalism make it seem like the fight is over. That since all these businesses are “allies” to the community everything is happy and dandy. However, we know this is not true.

Pushing this rhetoric that everything is “fixed” now, simply because of all these businesses being on board with the LGBTQ+ community, breeds a false sense of acceptance. Additionally, rainbow capitalism gives a false sense of security to the LGBTQ+ community, leading them to believe that these brands are standing with them. To put it bluntly, brands use the LGBTQ+ community as a marketing tactic. Hoping that if LGBTQ+ people see the rainbow colors and “solidarity,” they will be more likely to buy their products. However, many of these companies market themselves as allies, yet do no actual work to support the community. Rarely do you see actual support, proceeds or donations to show true advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. With the bare minimum being done to brand themselves as “allies,” these companies are essentially using the LGBTQ+ community as a profiting scheme.

This appears to be the real reason why businesses disguise themselves in vibrant colors; to capitalize on and commodify the LGBTQ+ community.

Falsely claiming allyship only to ensure a profit is rainbow capitalism. This exploits the LGBTQ+ community, using them only as a temporary marketing tactic and not as real people.