Jodie Louise Dayrit

The internet is once again filled with hundreds of rainbow-themed pub mats to celebrate the month of pride starting on the first day of June.

Different organizations and companies pitch in, and the LGBTQIA+ community’s time has finally come to celebrate their identity, commemorate discrimination victims, amplify voices, and fight for equality.

Pride is a protest born from the Stonewall Riots. However, this celebration is not without the multibillionaire companies using this once-in-a-year opportunity to profit from the community, splashing a glimpse of the rainbow into everything from the colors of their logos to their products; thus, rainbow capitalism. 

Rainbow capitalism, also known as pink capitalism, refers to businesses capitalizing off pride—a time dedicated to celebrating and demanding rights and protection for the queer community. 

And for what? Profit.

Large corporations commercializing a minority group is a clear manifestation of exploitation. In 2019, Gillette, a personal care brand, released a commercial featuring a father helping his transgender son to shave. The heartwarming initiative soon faced backlash for one, not supporting the community all year round, and two, for being a part of the giant corporation P&G—a brand flagged due to forced labor, human rights violations and environmental abuses.

Turning pride month into a time to unleash rainbow marketing gimmicks and showing off queer individuals does more harm than good. Many of these companies only use their queer employees as mere props for their content, developing feelings of being objectified. Several brands, like the aforementioned Gillete and local clothing brand Bench, featured queer representations in their commercials but barely did anything to spark substantive change outside marketing campaigns to support the community. 

These acts also perpetuate stereotypes, creating perceptions that pride is all about rainbows and fun. A clothing company selling a shirt with a “Love is love” quote, a large convenience store chain selling rainbow-colored hotdog buns, or a local government painting the pedestrian lanes rainbow will never catch the real essence of pride. The most ironic thing is that you would never see most of these companies speaking up about the systematic issues that the community faces. 

This year’s Pride PH festival in Quezon City on June 22 exemplified the perils of performative activism. While the event attracted a large crowd, drawing over 200,000 attendees together, many voiced disappointment. 

Disappointed. Chaotic. Toxic. 

The safe space for the queer community became a target for those attending solely for entertainment, often fueled by free concerts of famous music artists and groups in the Philippines, such as the P-pop girl group BINI – which is canceled due to rainy weather.

Pink capitalism was also evident in the event. The local government unit’s overtaking in organizing pride events, instead of mainly the queer mass itself, deviated from the main essence of protesting for pride. Tolerating such happening breeds the possibility of pride events being mere promotional events for political and capitalistic endeavors.

This year’s Pride event drew comparisons to the 2017 Metro Manila Pride in Marikina, where organizers led the charge with local government support. Many netizens felt the Marikina event provided a more organized and inclusive space for the LGBTQIA+ community to protest.

Rainbow-washed merchandise might create a sense of progress and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, but it is only a superficial gesture. Corporations’ performative activism can be harmful, as the community’s fight for acceptance and liberation requires genuine action, not just colorful products.

It’s 2024, yet the progress feels stagnant; we should have done better long ago. The Filipino queer community deserves more than rainbow-colored displays, as we need concrete action for equality and acceptance. 

True allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community requires action. Advocate for their causes, donate to relevant organizations, champion diversity and inclusion in workplaces, and fight discrimination in all its forms. 

So, next time, let the gays do their thing and lead the way. Otherwise, watch Pride become just a rainbow-washed relic to corporations glitters.