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Pop Culture with Aminah: The Commodification of Social Movements

Rainbow merchandise in the middle of a store
Pride merchandise at Target; photo by Phillip Pessar/Creative Commons

As Pride Month progresses, many large corporations and businesses have launched campaigns that “celebrate” the LGBTQIA+ community. LGBTQIA+ advocates have called out corporations for what they call phoney displays of support, including temporary logo changes and selling merchandise with different phrases and terms relating to the community. These are common occurrences for most social movements. Last June, several companies released statements about Black Lives Matter and police brutality, but activists were quick to point out the hypocrisy in their actions.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick was heavily criticized for kneeling during the national anthem. He spoke out against the injustices that several marginalized groups experienced and was virtually blacklisted from the league. But now, more than three years later, the NFL and several teams have made multi-million dollar donations to Black Lives Matter causes and continue to run ads about supporting the cause.

Businesses don’t have a true understanding of what these celebrations actually mean. Celebrations like Pride Month or Black History Month are born out of a necessity for representation. Marginalized groups experience oppression and exploitation, no matter the month. Commodities produced by corporations don’t acknowledge this in any way, nor do they acknowledge the ways in which they have and continue to contribute to problems around the world.

We have been conditioned to believe that corporations have our best interest at heart. Even when they don’t do right, we are told that we should acknowledge and celebrate when they do. The reality is that we’re giving them accolades for doing the bare minimum. Corporations are in the business of making money. They only express care or concern for something if it can provide them with some sort of benefit.

Larger businesses will always prioritize profits over people. Almost all of their do-good initiatives are virtue signaling mainstream interpretations of issues. Pride Month is meant to uplift the queer community, not to be used as a marketing tactic once a year.

By Aminah Jenkins, News Editor


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