The Irony of Anti-Rainbow Capitalism

The Irony of Anti-Rainbow Capitalism June 28, 2019

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. 

from this…
to this

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?)


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  • All revolutions end up mimicking in a worse way the very thing they are trying to revolt against. The Czar’s Secret Police became the NKVD became the KGB- and the Party Became the Czar.

  • Ame

    People look at me like I have two heads when I try to bring up this history. Back when I was accepted in LGBT+Ally circles, I was more a Camille Paglia than a Dan Savage.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    so, as it turns out Churches have been quite on board with the ancient greek ideal of pederasty, for quite some time now. Who would have thought you were so far ahead of us conventional boring LGBT types……

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Capitalism is a name covering many, many concepts and economic practices. One thing that is generally common is the idea that acquiring wealth is a primary goal and how that wealth is acquired is less than important. Capitalism is also the oldest economic system, traceable back to Babylon and Ur. Why, then, is Capitalism considered as special or discrete? Including LGBTQ people is simply good business (as long as they have money) since money has no gender or gender preferences. There is nothing new here, exploitation is as old as mankind and Capitalism is all about exploitation.
    What’s new about any of this?

  • billwald

    Money is the religion of this world and if the LGBT wants be respected the group needs to have a higher median income than straight white males. Why are Jews not an official “minority? Because Jews have a higher median income than white people. Jews, like East Asians, work harder, smarter, and/or longer than white people and are de facto white people in the Pacific NW.

  • billwald

    In many respects the very opposite of capitalism is a traditional small NW Indian Tribe. When the women and braves were hungry, the chief was hungry. But the coastal tribes were so rich they had to invent the potlatch to gain tribal status. See google.


    Yeah, well the American Revolution has made worse things in the USA. The British Army became the militia, the city, county, state and federal police and the Republican Party, the Tea Bagger Party, the wealthy people and corporations are now the King George III and the English Parliament.

  • Yes, exactly


    It is hard to avoid corporations these days, because they have a corner on the market on various of things like cars, computers, drugs, medicine, etc. AOC pointed out that this is a captive market not a free market: Well, you do need the IRS; otherwise, you can’;t expect members of the armed forces to fight if they are not getting pay, clothe, house, and fed or have food inspector, health inspectors, labor inspectors, and other people protect you from business leaders who tried to cut corners to raise their bottom line at the expense of the general public.

  • If you stop living in the city or using fossil fuels, it gets a lot easier and you save the planet by lowering your carbon footprint to the equivalent of an Amish believer.


    Living in the rural area is not easy since many people have to depend on driving from one place to another place. It would have been nice if the USA had develop alternative fuel like solar and wind power, plus have solar and/or electric cars and a large, efficient public transportation; however, the oil and car companies did not want to cooperate because it would cut into their profits.

  • There is little to no need really to drive. You do realize people got along for nearly a million years before the car was invented, right?


    That was a million years ago when people didn’t have to travel so far. It is really different today. No need to drive. Tell that to the employers who keep moving jobs around so people have to travel farther and father to work. Do you realizes that, right?

  • Working for an employer just gives wealth to the already wealthy. I thought you hated the wealthy. The game is to learn to be your own employer.


    I don’t care for the wealthy when they think that they are entitled to what life has to offered but don’t want the rest of us to have it. Lots of luck trying to be your own employer. Most American businesses go out of business within 6 month to a year and the American Chamber of Commerce is not interested in trying to do something about it since they represent the big companies.

    You be better off in Norway where the government helps you to start up a business; however, you have to give them a share in the company since they help you out in the first place.

  • Do not ask the chamber of commerce, they exist only to prevent competition for the wealthy, who are the ones you want to stay away from. Same with the government. Barter is where the real action is, if you are not using the bank you cannot go bankrupt.


    I know that they were only for the wealthy. They used to be for the small businesses but not anymore. You can’t barter what you don’t have and you can’t go back to the bartering system like it was a long time ago. I know the government is for the wealthy because the wealthy seizes the government by various means to use it on their side. Lots of poor people can’t use banks because they don’t have the money to even maintain a minimum balance required by the bank. If you fall below the balance, the banks will penalizes you.

  • Just because something was a long time ago does not mean you cannot return to it. The Amish have. The Chinuk have. Many other groups reject modernism. Poverty is relative, so is wealth really. If you hate the wealth so much, reject it and live as your ancestors did. The laws of physics have not changed, neither has humanity. Most of the so called progress is only an illusion: a trick that the wealthy you hate so much use to enslave the poor. If you do not like it, nobody actually says you have to participate, and there are still counties in Kansas and elsewhere willing to give you a farm in exchange for you simply working it.
    Yes, life takes work and is hard, no matter what path you choose. But that is exactly how it is supposed to be, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Take responsibility for yourself, and stop whining about it.