Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-06-20

The Commodification of LGBTQ Pride: How Capitalism Co-Opts Movements

I was cruising through Target the other day, and I saw a field of rainbow gear in the clothing section. At the same Target a year ago, there was one wall of Pride stuff and I thought that was a lot. An entire clothing section dedicated to rainbows for June was pretty remarkable growth within a year. There were pool floats, pride flag shawls, so many tanks and tee shirts with a lot of clever pride sayings, and a whole unicorn costume onesie that I almost called Dara to beg to buy. There were even tee shirts for couples to wear together to complete a rainbow for the ultimate dykealike experience and… PREFERRED PRONOUN PINS. At Target.

It is totally possible to hold multiple conflicting emotions at once and I had a bunch in the Target Pride section.

Surprised! In 1997—just twenty years ago—my gay mom would take her upside down triangle rainbow window cling off her car before I drove it. She didn’t want me to have to take the risk of homophobic hate crimes and I wasn’t out of the closet yet. It surprises me how far the acceptance of LGBT folks has come in my lifetime.

Validated! Listen, it’s capitalism. They are doing this because there are gay dollar$ to be made off of this and they want to cash in on this market. In the 70s being gay could get you fired or killed, and while that is still true today in many places, it is pretty amazing that you can come out and a big box store is giving you a high five by supplying your Pride gear.

My friend Franny at Dyke Day LA.

Delighted! I love rainbow stuff. In school I was very into school spirit, dressing up and rah rah for the team and I feel like my inherent cheerleader tendencies come out a lot when it comes to Gay Pride stuff. I love a good rainbow outfit, I love to wave a Pride flag in the right environment.

Heartened! I genuinely appreciate the show of support Target is giving the queer community by putting out this Pride section. Their show of solidarity in this instance is certainly well-intentioned. And in this political day and age when our rights could be dumped literally any minute, it’s nice to have entities give us that high five. (Though I do wonder if the Targets in Red States have big ol’ Pride sections.)

Annoyed! It always feels a type of way for me when businesses co-opt a movement. It used to be that I could only buy Pride gear on a special trip to a store in the Castro, and now those stores have all shut down and big box retailers are selling our Pride gear. It appears that more and more straight folks are going to Pride events because queers throw the best parties (we do) and they’ll put on a rainbow because it doesn’t matter, love is love! Rainbows aren’t just for queers anymore.

Maybe you’re not rainbow identified and you just want to be queer. Here’s a great shirt for that, available up to 3X, from queer non-binary owned Genuine Valentine!

Angry! At the commodification of Pride. Maybe Target should take a dollar (not even ten percent) of each of the shirts/Pride shawls they sell and give it to an LGBT non profit that benefits the most marginalized in our communities. But they’re not. The webpage selling their Pride gear sports a hashtag but not anything about donating to LGBT causes. The gay + ally dollar$ spent in that rainbow section are going to Target stockholders.

Big businesses mean well, they really do. They think they are helping when they have a big rainbow Levi’s store window or put together a social justice advertisement and slap their logo on the end of it. And in this day and age where most of the US spends their waking hours hypnotized on TV, those social justice commercials do make a difference. I really believe for it. However it does take most of the moxie out of the movement when it goes corporate.

Unbought and Unbossed! I love this Shirley Chisholm Lapel Pin from Radical Dreams–all products benefit community organizations.

Capitalism is a system that centers the privatization of resources. Movements are not owned by one person and are an amalgamation of ideas. Pride started out as a rebellion against homophobic and transphobic policing of queer people.

That general idea of “LGBTQ people deserve rights” pushed Pride forward annually and then as the movement grew, certain facets became privatized. Pride festivals became privatized in lots of ways, I would venture to say most common is someone in the first collective who started a Pride event in a city managed to be the last person standing so now they own it as {Whatever City} Pride Inc. and make curation choices with or without community input, charge admission, get sponsorships and make money off of producing Pride.

I brought my Femme Protection candle from (Queer Fat Femme owned) Last Craft with me to anchor my altar at Dyke Day! I charged a Femme Resilience magical incense blend while galavanting on my blankets with my pals. This candle is fabulous for Femme magic work and my new go-to gift for Femme birthdays.

Now corporations are putting rainbows all over things and making money off of what our Pride symbols mean to us–that same general idea that LGBTQ people deserve rights. They are taking an idea from a movement and privatizing resources associated with expressing it.

As I watch the body positive movement continue to be co-opted by corporations for their profit, it also heartens/validates/disappoints/angers/annoys me. Fifteen years ago when I was yelling Love Your Body on stage it was a revolutionary stance and now Lane Bryant just uses it to sell stuff.

At the same time, it is still revolutionary for people to hear that loving their fat body is an option so I guess net positive? While cashing in on Pride and body positivity feels kind of icky, it is still awesome that so many corporations are standing in solidarity with LGBT people in this political climate, and it is revolutionary that fat teenagers are getting the message however it comes to them that loving their fat bodies is an option.

I got this FEMME shirt at The Plus Bus. It was originally produced by Forever 21. Did they mean to print my gender identity on a shirt as a Pride thing or just coincidence?

Pride events over time have become so corporate. What began as a rebellion—honoring what happened at Stonewall, where trans women of color were tired of being harassed by cops. As Pride events gained notoriety and acceptance, corporations started sponsoring them. I remember my first Pride in San Francisco in 2000 leaving with swag bags full of corporate logos and fans promoting Queer as Folk (remember that show?) about to debut on Showtime. It’s only gotten more intense and it has been years since I’ve gone to a Pride event with corporate sponsors.

Instead I have gravitated towards Dyke Marches, which at least maintain a separation from corporate sponsorship, are community run and funded. You see almost everyone you know or have slept with in town which is why some call it “The Ex March.” In LA it isn’t even a march, it’s just a park hangout and it is THE BEST. (I’m still so fresh to LA so I only see people I am excited to see.)

Dyke Day LA was SO FUN. Epic overlapping hangouts with so many rad folks. (Here, EK, Dara, Kean and Corina.)

Dyke Day LA costs thousands to produce and that money is raised through community fundraisers throughout the year. Community organizing is exhausting work and I am so grateful for the folks who put in the time to carve out space in Pride month that is totally separate from a corporate agenda.

It’s nice that we have this space that is maintained because of the values of the Dykes that came before us. We only have it when there are community members willing to do the work and others willing to donate towards it. (It’s also a great way to meet folks—I met a group of people who completely changed my life when I worked on the Philly Dyke March committee.)

In a Kristen and Tristan sandwich!

I have been thinking a lot about how we resist the capitalism that has seeped into Pride. I think it’s by continuing to push the envelope. Queer means a lot of things but one definition I like most is queer as in weird.

Once you’ve opened up to a sexuality that steps outside of the heterosexual paradigm I think you’re more likely to think outside the box in other ways. Most queers keep things weird and push towards justice, whatever they believe that to be. When corporations grab ahold of what used to be chanted from the streets it ends up this kind of washed and faded version of something we have in full color. I love that queers keep making great anti-capitalist signs for Pride and showing up for resistance.

Philly has pushed the Pride envelope this year by changing the Pride flag to add Black and Brown—a sign of solidarity with the too often marginalized LGBT people of color who are and have been essential to this movement. The backlash is as you would expect from White LGBT folks who don’t see how important this move is to queers of color. I’m here for anything that makes POC feel more supported in the movement–and it’s so new that it’s not reflected in the Pride section at Target.

I’ll admit that I totally bought that $12 Pride shawl (before I knew there was a new rainbow flag!) after much hemming and hawing. I’ve never seen a rainbow shawl for sale and I ultimately want to give a thumbs up to Target’s gesture of (economically beneficial to them) solidarity. But I also spend lots of dollars directly to queers for their hard work and craftspersonship.

I know that Pride can’t actually be bought, and you can’t monetize the feeling of a young queer person at their first Pride parade, because even if Absolut is sponsoring the float that baby queer is paying way more attention to their crush or cruising.

If you want to sport your Pride in a more dapper and baller way, consider purchasing exquisite gender equal footwear designed by my pal NiK Kacy a very active member of the LGBTQ community.

I wonder how long it will take for corporations to adjust to the new Pride flag? I wonder what is now chanted in the streets that twenty years from now will be sanitized for the masses? I hope we keep pushing the envelope and I hope we keep prioritizing real queer people over corporations.

BTW this is NOT a sponsored post (I would tell you) but if Target wants to pass some of their profits to a queer artist out here speaking my truth I am open to sponsorship as long as it is my words and ideas!

2014-12-05

Black Lives Matter–Aggregating Information and Resources for White Folks to act in Solidarity

I’ve been feeling really impotent around the recent injustice where white policemen killed unarmed black men and grand juries failed to indict them. This is not a new story. There has been systemic killing and imprisonment of Black folks for a very long time.

IMG_20141205_125422From the Instagram feed of Mx Justin Vivian Bond at last night’s NYC protests.

Two songs keep running through my head the last week since the Ferguson grand jury failed to indict, the verse of the 1983 Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel song White Lines that goes “A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time/He got out three years from now just to commit more crime/A businessman is caught with 24 kilos/He’s out on bail and out of jail/And that’s the way it goes/Raah!”

And the song by Le Tigre, Bang Bang! where they count the bullets that police shot into unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999, I just keep counting to 41. “There is no fucking way this is not about race./Who’s gonna call 911/When they can’t tell a wallet from a motherfucking gun?”

I feel really impotent because I don’t really believe the system is going to change and I don’t know what to do. Some people take to the streets and protest. I get really freaked out in huge crowds, especially protests. So while other people are taking to the streets to protest I’m wondering what to do to act in solidarity with Black folks and talk about the fact that Black lives matter and the disproportionate imprisonment of Black folks and the killing of Black folks by police officers is genocidal and it is wrong.

I think “justice” system is a misnomer. This shit has happened again and again why is it still happening? Why are the prosecutors who work with the NYPD all the time responsible for grand jury indictments? Why aren’t we addressing systemic racism in the police force? Why aren’t these police officers being imprisoned for murder? This article kind of sums up how I feel about the “justice” system, with the exception that I took criminal law and it made me sick to my stomach to realize criminal prosecution is basically a chess game where people’s lives are at stake.

What seems different now is that there is more more public outrage than ever before and more movement. Yesterday I saw a white plus size model I follow on instagram post about her outrage about the Ferguson grand jury and the Eric Garner grand jury results. I realized that by not saying anything I was not doing anything. So I needed to at least say something.

Something I know that I have the ability to do is signal boost, so here are some of the writings, actions and movements that have meant something to me that I want to bring to my readers. It’s important to keep reading and staying engaged in things, even when we feel powerless. There are still things to do. Maybe the system won’t change but we can open up people near us. We can call in folks who are doing and saying racist things, especially right now.

As Chris Rock tweeted, “Just found a new app that that tells you which one of your friends are racist. It’s called Facebook. #FergusonDecision”

December 18thHealing Justice for Black Lives Matter: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha started this by deciding to donate all of her proceeds from tarot readings the day of December 18th to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has catalyzed healers from all over the US to do the same (now they’re up to 50+ healers, in NYC, Toronto, Chicago, Oakland, Minneapolis, etc…). Check out the ever evolving event page to connect with folks in your town or who are offering herbal medicines, etc… to benefit this cause.

Read the Herstory of the Black Lives Matter Movement: It was started by three queer Black women and has since been twisted and co-opted. Know the herstory when you use the hashtag.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

10835209_827282524012516_9146511200801306480_oFrom the Humans of New York Facebook page.

Check your language, and speak out even when it’s scary: I like when folks remind us that Stonewall was a “rebellion” not a “riot”–language matters in these movements and I think that the Ferguson protest was/is a rebellion. I also think it’s important to continue to signal boost Black lives matter. Sure, every human is worth dignity, but right now Black folks are being targeted, and we’re acting in solidarity with them.

Read 12 Things White People Can Do Because, Ferguson: “I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.”

Stand-With-Monica-Jones-web-lrg1

Read about Monica Jones: Monica Jones is a Black transwoman who was arrested last year just for walking down the street by two undercover cops. The cops decided that because she was a Black transwoman she was soliciting sex work. This article breaks down “Walking while trans” as “a succinct summation of the interconnected biases against trans women (and trans people more broadly, sometimes called transphobia) and against people who trade sexual services for money or other things (sometimes called whorephobia) and bound up in that special sauce of racism.” Further, it talks about why it’s so important that Monica Jones is fighting back.

She was just deported this week by Australia when she arrived for a speaking engagement in a way that seemed clearly pre-meditated by Australian Immigration Officials.

Read about why our “justice” system is not about justice. If you’re feeling apathetic about what is going on, it should rile you up.

If you get freaked out about talking to people about racism, confronting folks or calling them in, read this masterpost about talking about Ferguson. It’s dense and full of info, and you need to give it some time, but it could really help you have these conversations that are scary and hard. It’s important to confront racism when you read it (on facebook) or hear it (at work/in your family/etc). As white allies, it is important to not just say we’re allies but do the work.

We want to give you tools to support that work and that dialogue. If you’re facing tough questions from friends, family, colleagues, or even perfect strangers, we hope this will help you answer them. We need to collectively build support and awareness to build a better society, and part of that means challenging those who assume “we are already there,” exposing those who would further marginalize already disenfranchised communities, and educating those who do not see why any of these things are issues in the first place.

Redistribute wealth: If you have means and want to redistribute wealth to help the grass roots folks on the ground, this google doc has info on various 501(c)(3)s mobilizing to help.

I was really moved by what the widow of Eric Garner had to say about the officer’s “apology” for killing her husband. So far the video has already got over 5 million views. If you can’t watch a video there’s a transcript here.

“No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences,” she continued. “He’s still working. He’s still getting a paycheck. He’s still feeding his kids, when my husband is six feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.”

Marianne Williamson wrote a great article about the deficit America has regarding race relations after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

A black person is killed by police every 28 hours. We need to do something. Confronting racism in our workplaces, families, communities, everywhere is something we can do to begin to create change.

In the words of my friend Mizz June, “Fight darkness with light. Combat rage with love. Unexpected reactions create change.”

If you have other articles/resources that have things white folks can do about racism, please post them in the comments.

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