Saskatchewan LGBTQ2 businesses warn customers of rainbow capitalism during Pride month

Click to play video: 'LGBTQ2 businesses speak out against rainbow capitalism'
LGBTQ2 businesses speak out against rainbow capitalism
You don't have to look far to find a rainbow flag during Pride Month. For many it's a way to show support for the LGBTQ2 community, but for others it's all about marketing. Allison Bamford explains what rainbow capitalism is and why some are against it. – Jun 11, 2021

Some Saskatchewan business owners are warning customers not to give into rainbow capitalism during Pride month.

Sophie Gould co-owns The Cranky Leprechaun, a 50 per cent LGBTQ2-owned business in Pilot Butte.

“When we launched our Pride line we did it to share acceptance, to spread positive energy out into the community and to be able to give back,” Gould said.

The Cranky Leprechaun is donating 20 per cent of its Pride collection proceeds to Lulu’s Lodge, a safe home for LGBTQ2 youth.

Gould says businesses that sell Pride merchandise should make a conscious effort to give back to the LGBTQ2 community, either through donations or awareness.

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However, she says she’s seeing more and more businesses use Pride month as a marketing tactic, known as rainbow capitalism.

“I don’t think it’s fair to profit off of something that you haven’t been a part of and you’re not directly affected by,” Gould said.

Rainbow capitalism – or rainbow-washing – happens when businesses and organizations capitalize off Pride month but don’t necessarily support the LGBTQ2 community, according to OUTSaskatoon co-interim director Amanda Guthrie.

“Rainbow capitalism is really an easy cop-out to show that a business is progressive without actually taking meaningful action to back that up,” Guthrie said.

When it comes to combating rainbow capitalism, Guthrie says people should ask themselves what they are doing to support the community.

Click to play video: 'Pride Month celebrations go virtual amid COVID-19'
Pride Month celebrations go virtual amid COVID-19

“If I’ve made a one-time donation in the month of June, what else can I be doing the rest of the year? If I’m putting up a rainbow sticker on the front of my health clinic, what am I actually doing for my patients, clients or employees?”

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Meaningful action can be education and awareness, adopting LGBTQ2-friendly policies and procedures or donating to LGBTQ2 causes, according to Guthrie.

“LGBT people don’t just exist in June, we exist all year round and so do our struggles,” Guthrie said.

“While it’s great to be inundated every year with an outpouring of support, we also need to see that throughout the year.”

Gould says customers should educate themselves about the businesses they shop at, adding there should be an emphasis on purchasing Pride gear at LGBTQ2-owned stores.

“Be leery that you’re not taking business from people who’ve actually suffered through the cause you’re trying to raise awareness for,” Gould said.

Giving back all year round

At RMX Digital in Regina, owner Mitchell van Seters and his staff are busy filling Pride merchandise orders.

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For the month of June, 25 per cent of its Pride collection proceeds will also go to Lulu’s Lodge.

“As an out gay man, I struggled as a child being bullied and not having a safe space in a lot of respects, so for there to be a lodge like that, a home for youth, I think is pretty important,” said van Seters.

While his LGBTQ2-owned and operated business tries to actively support the community year-round, working with local drag queens and regularly donating to other LGBTQ2 causes, van Seters doesn’t expect every store to do the same.

“I think that there’s a lot of pressure to do it and I think some of it’s unfair, but it is really nice to see it being done,” said van Seters, recognizing that not all small business can afford to donate part of their proceeds to LGBTQ2 causes.

As for rainbow capitalism, he agrees the movement is growing because Pride is easily marketable.

But he says he looks at the glass half full and, as a general rule, isn’t bothered by rainbow-washing.

“Having businesses put a Pride flag up legitimizes our movement,” he said.

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“At the end of the day, the fact that you’re out supporting this movement and this community, that’s huge.”

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