This past week, I couldn’t walk two feet in Manhattan without noticing another rainbow themed ad or store front. It’s Pride Month, and Corporate America is determined to prove its moral virtuousness.
Either that or they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck.
The array of advertisements reflect the diverse modes of pro-LGBT rhetoric.
Take TD Bank’s nod at expressive individualism at their ATMs. “Be You. Be Free. Be Forever Proud”…next to a rainbow circle. And what could make me feel more myself than drawing money out of my account?
Then there’s the more family oriented ads of Visit Philly, inviting potential visitors to “Let Wedding Bells Ring,” as they proudly present a photo of a lesbian couple holding hands in front of the Liberty Bell.
Restaurants and food suppliers have been getting crafty with their rainbow colored foods. Take Just Salad’s “Big Gay Garden Salad,” complete with vegetables that cover every color of the rainbow. Or Shake Shack’s strawberry shake mixed with lemonade, and topped with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. Not only can you slurp your shake with pride, but you can wash it all down with a gulp of self-righteousness–$1 of what you paid for that shake is going to help the Trevor Project.
As Rainbow Capitalism reaches new heights, the more political arm of the LGBT movement has become increasingly critical.
Many accuse these major corporations of insincerity. Surely they “love pride” after gay marriage was legalized and pop culture features more gay stars. But where were they during the years when coming out was still stigmatized?
Other express concern toward the lack of attention given to the injustices that LGBT people still face, namely homelessness of LGBT youth and violence against transgender people. The optimistic picture these corporations paint whitewashes (or better, rainbow-washes) the continuous struggle toward full equality.
The most intriguing critique that is that rainbow capitalism negates the founding “mission” of the LGBT movement. Non-binary journalist Da’Shaun Harrison laments that the rainbow themed ads, booking of celebrities and politicians for pre-parade events, and the police presence at the parades are “the antithesis to what the month is supposed to commemorate.”
Harrison continues, “[a]t its core, Pride is intended to disrupt cisheteronormativity; it is a response to police violence and an intentional act of rebellion.” Many queer activists would agree with this statement, claiming that pro-LGBT rhetoric post-Obergefell takes a step backward.
Peter Tatchell, writes that when he first get involved in the London Gay Liberation Front in the 70s, it’s goals were focused on “social transformation, rather than assimilation and equality within the status quo…We sought to overturn straight supremacism, sexual guilt and traditional gender roles.”
Tatchell sees the trajectory of the movement capitulating to a heteronormative and capitalistic ideal that contradicts the vision of most early queer activists: “Pride is now capitalism with a pink hue. It has become monetised: we pay to march, the city authorities extort vast charges from the Pride organisers and we are encouraged to buy rainbow-branded merchandise to express our sexual and gender identity.
Most queers no longer dissent from the values, laws and institutions of mainstream society. They happily settle for equal rights within the existing social order; often uncritically seeking what straights have, no matter how dubious. Increasingly, LGBT+ culture has lost its critical edge. We have been mainstreamed, which on one level is great, but mainstreamed on heterosexual terms. Many of us seem to aspire to little more than an LGBT+ version of straight family life.”There’s something important in these “traditionalist” critiques of Rainbow Capitalism. On one hand, traditional activists took up the noble agenda of challenging the stifling, utterly bourgeois socially constructed ideals that emerged during the post-war period. I use the term traditional only half-jokingly. In a sense, the early LGBT movement was a witness to certain metaphysical, eternal truths that the materialism of capitalistic post-industrial culture attempted to erase.
The ideals of self-sufficiency, personal success, “politeness”…in other words, “keeping up with the Joneses,” presented Americans with a worldview that was closed-off to the preeminence of the metaphysical Laws of Nature and the unavoidable reality of our need to depend on a transcendent Being. The secular humanism espoused by media, corporations, and even religious institutions (the polite ones, not the ones infested with “enthusiasm” and Papism) attempted to clean up the inconvenient realities of good and evil, holiness and sin, nature and the unnatural.
The Stonewall Riots and subsequent gay liberation efforts were fueled by a primieval drive to transgress the bounds of Nature. Sodomy and cross-dressing go against the order of creation. Many pre-modern deviants were well aware of this fact, and enjoyed their perversions precisely for this reason. Gay sex was not a means to “express one’s feelings” or to be “true to his identity.” Instead, it was a Dionysian attempt to mess with Nature, which for many proved to be a wicked good time.
The presence of deviants testifies to the fact that Someone imbued Nature with an inherent order.
Inevitably, the modernization of sexual deviancy has entangled itself with atheistic ideologies of power and liberation. As much as the attempt to transgress ideals of heteronormativity may hearken to earlier Dionysian attempts by deviants to subvert the order of nature, it does so in the name of constructing a new “order,” one based on the “right” to individual self-expression and ultimately, power.
As much as these traditional queer activists decry the capitalistic turn in the LGBT movement, they would do well to look more closely at the metaphysical implications of the movement’s history. They’re attempt to overturn the bourgeois, socially constructed ideals of heteronormativity were rooted in the same materialistic power-driven worldview of its enemies. Thus the revolution didn’t present a reversal, but instead an intensification of the individualistic bourgeois norms they fought against.
Italian political philosopher Augusto Del Noce attributes this ironic outcome to confused premises of the sexual revolution…what he calls the “final bourgeois revolution.” Carlo Lancelotti, Del Noce’s English translator, comments that the sexual revolutionaries’ attack against bourgeois society fell into a “tragic misunderstanding”: “the young mistook the affluent society of their parents for ‘tradition’ and fell back into the default Marxist critique of every transcendent ideal. This ensured their defeat, because one more time the revolutionary demolition of tradition played right into the hands of the bourgeois mindset, and allowed it to manifest itself in an even purer state.”
He continues, “Del Noce’s thesis is that, paradoxically, philosophical subordination to revolutionary progressivism was the reason why the counterculture of the sixties, instead of overthrowing bourgeois society, swept away the last traditional constraints that held back its expansion and finally made everything, even the human body, ‘an object of trade.’”
Queer activists would do well to reach a little further back into history beyond the golden age of Stonewall. Perhaps Ancient Greece would be a good place to start?
(or they could just watch this?)