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May 31, 2011 Comments Off on Pride for Sale… Views: 2109 Uncategorized

Pride for Sale…

I'm guessing that's how the folks at Anheuser-Busch assume that we dress for pride.

This is one of those subjects that makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. One of the many changes that has occurred in the last few decades of broader queer awareness and acceptance, (LGBT Pride Parades/Fairs, expanded exposure to queer theatre, film and art, etc…) is also the revelation of a previously unidentified target market to corporations who wanted to sell us stuff.

American Apparel has long been vocal in it's support for equality for the LGBTQ community...

Today, I ran across an story talking about Old Navy launching a line of t-shirts just in time for Pride Month, and I couldn’t help but dig a little further. According to our friends at Queerty, they’re selling the shirts in only 26 of their 1,035 stores. With 10% of the sales of these shirts being donated to the IT GETS BETTER PROJECT, we applaud the effort (small though it may be…) but I’m left a bit perplexed as to why Old Navy stores in the bible belt will not have the opportunity to purchase the shirts – arguably in markets that need to see this message most. Sadly, I can only be led to believe that Old Navy is seeing an opportunity to cash in on markets that would already be keen on their positive message without having to risk any sort of unpleasant publicity from right-wing, and overwhelmingly fundamentalist Christian organizations that would most assuredly balk at the rainbow shirts  in the windows of their neighborhood Old Navy stores. I would argue that if Old Navy were really trying to make a statement, they’d release the shirts for sale everywhere – but I can understand why corporations the size of Gap (Old Navy’s mother company) are slow to act, and are cautious to tiptoe anywhere near controversy. But it still smells like pandering to get the gay dollar. (More after the jump)

OLD NAVY's "Love Proudly" shirt... just in time for Gay Pride month

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, beer and liquor companies were the first to smell the possibility of profit – after all, what was gayer than a bar in those days? Then Disney showed up, and Subaru wasn’t far behind. As a community, we responded and said yes to Absolut and Miller Lite. We went to Disney World (gay day or not!) and we happily drove around in our Subaru Outbacks. As a community in the broadest sense, we responded to these “WE LIKE THE GAYS” ad campaigns, and these companies profited mightily from our spending. As the turn of the new century rolled around, there were entire advertising, marketing and PR films devoted to selling products to a focused, LGBT targeted market. After these companies started helping these behemoths get our hard-earned queer dollars, they began to realize that without some sort of attention to corporate responsibility, these companies were doing nothing but exploiting a market that may or may not have purchased their products before – and all that Bud Lite had to do was buy some rainbow stickers in June to put on their beer. Coors Brewing, famously homophobic, right-wing and anti-union, saw an opportunity to pick up income where there had been a lag before, but  because the LGBTQ community saw through the facade, and called them on their pandering, Coors was forced to decide what they wanted their corporate culture to be – one that continues the culturally conservative history that they’d adopted for decades, or would they mature and see that if they are to survive, they had to look at the new consumer market and re-envision their entire brand identity. Coors even went so far as to extend domestic partner benefits to their employees – still a revolutionary concept in major corporate culture. Yet even now, the Coors family, and the Coors Brewing company still donate generously to right-wing causes that in turn support anti-gay initiatives… So, Coors uses the money you spent on their products to support organizations that are in the business of attacking you and your life.

Coors Brewing, famously homophobic, right-wing and anti-union, saw an opportunity to pick up income where there had been a lag before…

In recent years, with the birth of LOGO, and other nationwide and worldwide queer media opportunities, companies have been able to narrow that advertising effort to a distinct, focused space where the entire audience reading a magazine, or watching LOGO is presumably LGBTQ or a friend of the community.

Now, in 2011, targeting the queer dollar is alive and well. Every company that isn’t owned by a fundy, right-wing organization is pandering for our money… and frankly, even some of those on the right are seeing the value in targeting our community.

As Pride month rolls around, there will be about a zillion opportunities for you to spend your money on all manner of places and things that will tell you that they love the Community – but take a moment to ask yourself where that spending power is going. You should always buy condoms, of course, but as they say, “Follow the Money.”

 

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