In June every year, the rainbow flag floods our Instagram stories and Facebook feed to exemplify support for the queer community. All this stands quite in contrast with on ground realities. An investigatory video by The Quint showed the struggles of LGBTQIA+ community, especially in small towns.
It is ironical to say the least, that the overt tokenism expressed online turns into apathy when rights and representation are called into question. This contradiction reflects starkly in the case of corporations and companies who show token support only to make profits off of it later or in some cases, engage in directly homophobic practices.
This phenomenon can be understood as pink washing or rainbow capitalism which is a marketing strategy to commodify LGBTQ+ demands for equality and acceptance. The practice stems from the fact that for many urban young adults modernism is a consumerist identity.
However, when it comes to questioning regressive attitudes and practices and building an inclusive community, many are as conservative as their parents.
The prime example of this is transphobia rampant in Indian campuses and homophobia in Indian schools. This is a direct result of the monetisation of politics and protests as a way to portray oneself as progressive and intellectual.
After the decriminalisation of Section 377 there was a sudden boom in queer targeted advertisements in Indian media. Rather than forwarding the cause of dismantling the gender binary, it turned out to be another gimmick in the name of sounding all ‘woke’ and ‘liberal’.
A prime example of this are major corporate houses in India who have been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ inclusion campaign, all the while simultaneously transferring massive donations and electoral bonds to a political party which has often been in controversy due to its exclusionary policies and regressive bills.
It is not just India, though. Corporates across the world, while maintaining an image of queer friendly business practices donate millions of dollars to anti-gay and homophobic politicians who then systemically target these marginalized communities.
For example, pharma giant Pfizer came in last in a list of 9 corporations by donating almost a million dollars to anti-gay politicians while AT&T bagged the top spot with whopping donations in excess of 2.7 million dollars.
What’s worse is that these companies achieved perfect scores in the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) that measures LGBTQ+ friendly policies and initiatives in corporations.
More often than not, one of the most cited arguments by individuals is that they are not themselves queerphobic. However, irrespective of that fact, when these persons engage with and even increase the profitability of such institutions, they are structurally attacking the community and their rights.
"There is a growing body of critique around how companies are trying to cash in on the vulnerabilities of LGBTQ+ consumers through a well-packaged narrative of rainbow capitalism that cares only about the revenue they bring, not their rights." https://t.co/ODDhKDLLKZ #queermedia
— Chintan (@chintan_connect) June 18, 2020
A friend who decides to love you based on your marketability and palatability is no friend at all and the same stands true for being an ally. The concept of rainbow capitalism not a new phenomenon.
On the contrary, it is another consolidation of our pre-existing knowledge that any entity functioning solely for the purpose of greed has never and will never be a progressive force. The market guides where the money goes and money follows government diction and masses created by the consumerist culture.
This race of jumping on the queer bandwagon is nothing but a way of following the money trail and building up on the queer movement while leeching away the benefits and leaving the movement hollow.
Corporate India’s lip service to the queer folk came to a head with the global launch of a UN charter on LGBT rights in Mumbai. Nearly 4 years later, we seem to have barely made any progress.
All we can still hear is the voice of activists demanding laws against discrimination, and meanwhile the queer citizens in question facing horrifying discrimination and mental anguish in the same corporate world.
‘Pink Economy’ or the percentage of GDP made by of the queer folk in India is assumed to be upwards of 1.4%, accounting for nearly 2.5 million individuals. This whopping amount is what attracts big businesses and corporations, not a genuine care to make the society a better place for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Not to mention that this overt display of being an ally not only diverts attention from predominant material issues but also lulls the populace in a sense of false security where everything is sunshine and rainbows literally.
Queerness is intersectional and so is the fight for queer rights. This homogenization of issues has led to a race of token inclusion completely disregarding the issues and intersection of caste, gender and other very real socio-economic issues, thus alienating a very large population of queer individuals.
The basic rights of having a loving family and getting hitched to the person you love are still distant dreams for millions in this country where the right to be with a partner of your choice has recently been recognised.
Queer liberation or liberation for any group of people does not just need commodities with rainbow flags or Instagram handles with altered logos. You cannot claim to want equality while perpetuating a system whose material basis is inequality.
LGBTQIA+ folks do not need self-anointed woke people dropping cultural crumbs while thriving on the market created by bloody struggles raging on for years just to win basic rights.
The queer citizens of this country need rights like reservation and acceptance and they won’t get that from guileless populist pandering by commercialisation and consumerism based on nothing but cheap activism.