Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Malherbe '26: Rainbow capitalism is fading, but not in a good way

In the past few years, it has become standard for major corporate brands to don a rainbow version of their logo in honor of Pride Month. This tradition is the face of ‘rainbow capitalism’, a tactic used by companies to pander to the queer community and boost their public image—and consequently increase their sales. Many joke about these plainly insincere visual changes, but others have constructed serious critiques of the practice, particularly by highlighting the ways these hollow offerings of support can cause harm. These critiques have been easy to dismiss as merely academic, considering the last decade has seen so many landmark achievements for queer rights that the political implications of a black-and-white Skittles campaign seemed minor in comparison. 

This past year, however, has been one of the most terrifying in recent memory for queer Americans. An increasingly powerful anti-LGBTQ+ movement has already led to oppressive laws targeting trans and queer people, with the threat of further restrictions looming on the horizon. Queerphobic consumers are also increasingly boycotting brands that publicly declare their queer allyship, leading to a decrease in Pride logos and queer influencer collaborations. Suddenly, Pride Month and the marketing campaigns that piggyback off of it have become quite unprofitable. In short, rainbow capitalism is fading, but not in a good way.

Bud Light recently partnered with transgender TikTok sensation Dylan Mulvaney in what seemed at the time like a pretty unremarkable pre-Pride public relations move. But the collaboration was not received well, to put it lightly. Somehow, in the year 2023, the fact that Dylan is a trans woman was damaging enough for Bud Light’s brand that their sales plummeted, their stock price dropped and enraged men posted violent rampages against — you guessed it — inanimate beer cans online. This trend sent a clear statement to brands: Supporting the queer community is no longer worth it.

So, in light of this (and other similar controversies around Pride campaigns), it seems like it’s time to test how hollow these corporations’ pledges of allyship really are. Surely now, when queer rights are so under attack, these powerful brands staying firm in their support might finally do some good for the community. Well, in a not-so-shocking turn of events, it seems that long-standing critiques of rainbow capitalism were completely correct and a number of these companies are suddenly pretending Pride doesn’t exist. There’s almost something satisfying in seeing brands demonstrate that all they ever really cared about was what Pride meant for their June profit numbers. But watching the existence of queer people go from a potential, exploitable market to an entirely ignored, financial risk does not feel like a victory. 


Is rainbow capitalism bad? Duh. But its rapid disappearance also signals a problem. Capitalism is an integral part of American society whether we like it or not, so what it decides to include or exclude in its exploitation is important — regardless of how many of us may resent its dystopian omnipresence. If the mere symbol of queer people’s existence, the Pride flag, is seen as too controversial to incorporate into some logos for just a month, that does not bode well for queer individuals. If anything, the existence of rainbow capitalism was a sign that being a queer ally was generally a good look in the eyes of the average American consumer.

According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans still seem comfortable with queer people being present in marketing. But by suddenly dropping signature Pride advertising, these brands send the message that a vocal minority of violently transphobic — and queerphobic — consumers are more powerful than they really should be. When notable companies like Target and Bud Light remove pro-LGBTQ+ merchandise or go back on statements of support to pander to upset bigots, it creates a precedent for companies prioritizing the concerns of transphobes over trans people. Many of these major brands were already happy to give their money to anti-LGBTQ+ candidates, making what’s to come in a post-Pride corporate world an even more daunting nightmare.

Perhaps the worst consequence of corporations turning their backs on Pride is how hopeless the average queer person feels seeing this happen. While it’s all well and good to have endless Twitter discourse about the pros and cons of Target selling pronoun t-shirts, the truth is that none of this was really under our control. But we needn’t see this as a definitive loss. As said previously, this is proof of our suspicion that these corporations are not our saviors or allies, and there is power in that knowledge. We cannot rely on conservative forces that only claim to be on board with our existence when it looks like we’re winning the culture war. 

This recent turn of events is a good reminder that Pride is not a celebration or opportunity for a shopping spree like these brands have long been making it out to be. Since Stonewall, Pride has been a protest, and that is where we need to focus our efforts. We can protest the unjust laws being enacted to suppress us. We can campaign for the politicians who will protect us from erasure. We can fight fire with fire: If transphobes can make Bud Light sweat with a little boycott, we can do the same to any brands that suddenly back out on supporting us. If we can’t rely on the goodwill of the capitalist machine, then we will simply have to rely on ourselves. It’s gotten us this far.

Paulie Malherbe ’26 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to

Read more from The Herald's Pride 2023 Special Issue.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.