Rainbow capitalism was always going to fold if anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment rose: now, we’re at that moment

Pride merchandise from Target
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The months running up to Pride have seen right-wing shitheads whipping themselves into a frenzy regarding rainbow branding – particularly in the US. In turn, shops such as Target have begun to quietly drop their Pride merchandise.

My problem here isn’t the potential of seeing less queer branding in shops, per se. They’re a cash grab, and always were. This is called ‘rainbow capitalism‘:

Rainbow capitalism, aka pink capitalism, is the action of companies claiming to support LGBTQ+ causes and communities, but are actually making merchandise for-profit and capitalize on the trend. In other words, it centers on corporate interests and profit.

The rise of rainbow capitalism was never a sign that companies themselves support queer people. Companies support anything that makes them money. For a while, slapping the Pride colours on t-shirts, vodka bottles, and dog leashes was an easy way to do that.

Now, as homophobia, transphobia, and all the rest are once again on the rise, we’ll see more and more companies quietly shrink their Pride displays and merch lines. This, in itself, I don’t give a shit about. But it is a fucking terrifying sign of the times.

Bud Light

Back in April, Dylan Mulvaney – a trans actress and influencer – posted a video to her Instagram. In the video, Mulvaney revealed that brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev sent her a personalized Bud Light can with her face on it to celebrate the anniversary of her gender transition.

Though Mulvaney has some 10 million followers on social media app TikTok, she isn’t exactly a household name. However, the gift was enough for some conservatives to declare Bud Light a ‘trans beer’. They even called for a boycott against the company – and other brands that Mulvaney has worked with – for going ‘woke’.

Read on...

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But that obviously wasn’t enough. Trump-loving musician Kid Rock filmed himself shooting cans of Bud Light with an assault rifle. A man went on a rampage in a Kansas Walmart store, hurling cans of Bud Light and Busch Light across the floor. Anheuser-Busch factories reported bomb threats being made against them.

In response, the company CEO issued a lukewarm statement that:

We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.

LGBTQ+ campaigners pointed out that the company was trying to weasel its way out by distancing itself from Mulvaney.


More recently, on 23 May, big-box retailer Target said that it had removed products to commemorate Pride month. It cited threats to employees in the wake of criticism by social conservatives. The giant US chain has showcased rainbow-colored items celebrating Pride for more than a decade.

Conservative activists have filmed themselves at stores expressing outrage at “tuck friendly” swimsuits designed for trans customers. In a now-familiar pattern, they also destroyed displays and sent bomb threats to stores.

Target said in a statement:

Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work.

Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.

Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.

Except, they’re doing the opposite of ‘continuing commitment’, aren’t they? Right-wing tools threw their dummy out the pram, got violent, and were promptly given exactly what they wanted.

Not the only ones

Bud Light and Target are by no means alone, either. Pink News put together a list of over 40 brands that are being targeted for their perceived support of Pride and LGBTQ+ people. These include Hershey’s, Disney, and even Tesco.

Daniel Korschun, associate professor of marketing at Drexel University, stated that executives:

are becoming much more skittish about taking these stands and making strong statements…The pendulum is swinging a bit back… toward a more conservative approach, where they’ll be less vocal.

Professor Sophie Bjork-James of the US-based Vanderbilt University, who works on white nationalism, pointed out that this reticence from companies was exactly what the right is after. She said in an interview:

I think this will embolden alt-right actors, who now are going to believe that with social media campaigns and targeted actions against retailers that they can proceed in limiting visibility of LGBTQ people.

Remember your Pride

I didn’t like it when more and more shops started slapping the Pride flag on their stuff. But now, removing the rainbow because it might hurt a brand’s image or some shit is only going to add insult to injury.

I’ve got two points that I want to leave off on here. Select whichever seems most appropriate.

If you consider yourself an ally, over the coming month while you’re out shopping, pay attention to the Pride merch you see around you. I don’t care if you don’t buy it: I wouldn’t. But ask – are the shops going as hard as they did in previous years? Take note of those that’ve put their rainbow shite to the back aisles like a shameful little secret.

And, for my fellow queers, it is – as ever – a great time to remember that Pride is a protest. The most important item of Pride merchandise is, and will always be, a brick. They’re very cheap. You can paint it yourself if you really want to.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Missvain, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, resized to 1910×1000. 

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  • Show Comments
    1. Sadly, Canary is itself being targeted (no pun intended) by far-right anti-trans activists, as the comment threads often show. The answer is for us, the working class and LGBT+ people, to unite and drive this well-funded, fascism-promoting minority back under the rocks where they were hiding. There is, of course, nothing in their ‘arguments’ except lies and deliberate misinformation to promote hatred and division between working class people. They want to return our society to the way they think it used to be and should be: no openly LGBT+ people, no abortion rights, no votes except for white men with property…

      1. So, you really do have nothing but Conspiracy theories and Ad Hominem attacks? Do you realise how weak that shows you and your ideology to be? You could have responded by trying to deny any of the things I said. You could have tried to argue that women or lesbians support “trans rights”, although you’d have had to address the fact that every survey shows that, whilst women will say they support something suitably vague like “trans rights”, when it comes to specifics – like the idea of letting men into women’s toilets, changing rooms, sports or prisons – Women say No. And that the spoilt, entitled, misogynist men who are denied their wishes react the same way abusive men have always reacted when they can’t get their way, with threats, intimidation and violence.

        You could have seriously addressed the growing demand amongst LGB people for as divorce, the violent expulsion of lesbians from Pride marches (including ratting to the police) and wondered why this has grown, why this desire to separate ourselves from the TQIA+ alphabet soup? But that would have meant serious introspection, an examination of the violent woman-hating nature of your Men’s Rights Movement. So that was out.

        Instead you resort to ad hominem attacks: So you accuse us of being ” far-right”, “anti-trans”, “well-funded”, “fascism-promoting” and a “minority”, with no evidence for any of it and, for the last, not even addressing the fact that surveys clearly show that most women agree with our ideas, as both the linked-to survey and all YouGov polls show. Sure, because a policy is popular doesn’t mean it’s right, but the fact that you feel it’s necessary to lie about the popularity of your ludicrous and misogynist attack on women’s rights is revealing. You then go on to say that there is “nothing” to the arguments that you’re afraid of and incapable of addressing, and repeat your conspiracy theory that we’re all far right, racist shills, again without bothering with anything as basic as evidence.

        Horseshit. We’re a grass roots women’s movement. The organisations you fear and despise were mostly founded by women, left wing women at that, often lesbians, like one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and ex-members of Stonewall, who left the organisation in disgust when it started to attack women’s rights and promote a Men’s Rights Agenda. Truth is, you’re the one promoting “hatred and division between working class people” by promoting the rights of a small number of spoilt, abusive, entitled men over the objections of the majority of women. We see you for what you are. By your deeds are you judged. And you can’t handle that. You’ve attached yourself like a parasite to the left-wing and LGB movements. But we’re shaking you off. And we will remember those “left wingers” who prioritised the Rape Culture of abusive men over the rights and safety of women.

    2. Airplane,you are talking nonsense.Just because you believe in biological reality and that,for example,Eddie Izzard,is not and never will be a woman does not make you a far right fascist.Do you honestly believe that Germaine Greer,JK Rowling and Kathleen Stock are fascists?.Do you really believe I am funded by a secret fascist organisstion?If you cant disagree with someone without calling them a bigoted fascist transphobe that says more about you than anyone else.

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