In May, Tumblr made the baffling decision to declare itself “the queerest place on the Internet,” which many saw as a shameless attempt to pat itself on the back publicly. This is despite the porn ban of 2018, which disproportionately affected queer communities and sent people from the site in droves. It isn’t just Tumblr participating in rainbow capitalism, the practice of washing corporations and companies in rainbow colors every Pride season, with no real intention of changing practices or actually supporting queer spaces like youth shelters with the profits that come from Pride merch.
While rainbow capitalism can have a positive effect on social change, saturating the cultural conversation with the undeniable existence of queer people, it’s still mostly marketed towards queer people, not straight people who need to be more accepting in their personal and business lives. Most of these companies are making nominal donations from the profits of their merchandise. Some companies have been accused of profiting from Pride merch without donating to a charity at all, like the game company Blizzard, although in Blizzard’s case, the situation is more complicated, with the merch being designed by queer and trans employees.
Twitch capped their donations at $25,000 for their Pride “fundraiser,” despite being bought out by Amazon, to the outrage of many. Then there’s Disney, which has had so many “first openly gay” characters that you can count them on two hands. Disney also earned outrage for their Pride merchandise. Rainbow capitalism is getting to be less of a buzzword and more of a reality, unfortunately. Queerbaiting could also be considered a part of rainbow capitalism, hoping to spur viewers on in supporting your show.
So, what can you do, other than protesting vicariously on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever other social media platform you use? Well, you can stop buying Pride merch, no matter how tempting that T-shirt with a rainbow Mickey silhouette is. You could donate the money that would’ve gone towards that merch to a queer youth organization or shelter, for example.
Real change requires putting your resources, any resources, where your mouth is. And while expressing outrage on social media does publicly shame, it’s withholding your money and energy from these companies and putting them towards someone(s) in need which makes a real difference. Rainbow capitalism in our fandom spaces may be here to stay–consequences of a capitalist society–but that doesn’t mean we as queer fans have to engage with it.
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