A few thoughts on Pride & Beauty
With Pride season upon us, I feel the need to lift my favourite issue – LGBT rights in relation to capitalism and beauty culture. You’d think I’d exhausted my ability to cover this topic, but I suspect that will never be the case as more and more insidious expressions of homo- and transphobia show their ugly faces in my proverbial neck of the woods.
Come June, corporations far and wide will be scrambling to access the wallets of LGBT people, using rainbow-themed limited-edition products in “celebration” of pride. Some of these companies will be donating part of the proceeds to a LGBT charity. Some of these companies won’t. And whether or not they somehow benefit us (though isn’t it interesting how only products marketed to LGBT people benefit charities helping us? Then aren’t we just helping ourselves?) they do, more than anything, exploit us. Showing up for us once a year is not enough.
In light of recent events around beauty vlogger James Charles, it’s become very clear to me that the beauty community is still deeply homophobic. I’ve spoken on this previously, but from the perspective of a gay woman. While I won’t go into detail around the “drama”, I will say that I was pretty appalled to see how quickly the conversation devolved into homophobic harassment – it’s as if people were just waiting for an excuse to tear down a f*g. It was very clear to me that straight people still know nothing about our lives and histories and are quick to withdraw solidarity as soon as one of us steps out of line.
So blame me not for being nauseated by the influx of pride-themed beauty products, only weeks after the James Charles “scandal”. The people who were more than willing to repeat the homophobic myth of gay people as sexual predators out to victimize straight people can now purchase a pride-flag emblazoned lip gloss to ease their conscience. It’s a comfortable, self-centered way of supporting LGBT people without actually doing the work of examining the ways in which they contribute to our oppression.
It’s very easy for brands to sell rainbow products for one month of the year and then go back to upholding the status quo, where the extent of LGBT visibility is in the form of gay-for-pay photo shoots. A Pride-themed eyeshadow palette is not helping. It is not what we need. It is all well and good that certain brands are contributing to LGBT charities with their collabs, but the profits far outweigh these contributions. Brands are earning money and PC points, two birds with one rainbow-festooned stone.
Let me pause to say that not all charitable causes by beauty brands are bad. For instance, Glossier’s Lambda Legal keychain drive was cute and respectful. MAC has made significant contributions through their AIDS fund, and have kept raising money for years. What I truly, deeply take issue with is how brands treat Pride month like it’s gay Christmas. That it’s an opportunity for limited-editon holiday gear, as if LGBT rights issues are a once-a-year festivity. It’s become a merchandising opportunity.
Instead, work to include and lift us up all year. Work to improve conditions for your LGBT employees all year. Take an interest in our lives, needs, and histories, for they are plentiful and complex. Don’t be fair-weather friends. Don’t only show up when there’s a party. Don’t use our struggle, our flag, for commerce. Capital has no place in an emancipatory movement.
We don’t need “Pride beauty” lip gloss. We need you to actually give a shit.