How Activism Became Fashion Capitalism
Before there was LGBTQ+ Pride, there was police brutality and riots. Black Lives Matter started with protests against the senseless killings of innocent Black people by the police with no accountability.
Every June, without fail, companies change their logos to a rainbow version of it, and the rainbow-themed is steadily rolled out. Come July 1, all of that disappears.
The Black Lives Matter movement has officially been around since 2013. Since then, companies have started making apparel and accessories to show support, but only after another killing has occurred and subsequent protests. These products have really made a resurgence this year after the murder of George Floyd and the still ongoing protests.
All of the companies doing this, producing activism apparel, are only doing it for profit. They see the trend and the possibility of high sales and they make the merchandise. They are exploiting pain and activism and identity for their own good, and it's honestly infuriating.
If you are a small brand making this stuff and are black and/or LGBTQ+, fine, that's your identity and you actually care. Most of those small brands donate portions of the proceeds to corresponding organizations that support the movements, which also shows care. If it's the official organization selling things, even better. This anger is directed at big corporations that don't care about us.
Using these movements and more as a commodity devalues said movement. It is not to bought and sold. These movements, these protests, these celebrations, are fighting for people's lives and people's rights. Selling a shirt that was made by underprivileged and underpaid women in a different country is almost hypocritical. Activism isn't meant to be bought and sold.
Modern-day Pride is a celebration. It is a celebration of who we are as LGBTQ+ people. There used to be so much shame in identifying as such, and in a lot of places, it still is. That is why pride exists. It's not just a party. It's a place for people who have been hiding to be free, to be themselves. Yes, Pride has evolved since 1969, and yes, we have made amazing strides, but there's still work to do. Pride is still a protest in the face of homophobia and transphobia. Pride is still a place where we fight for our rights. It has become a celebration because no one else would celebrate us.
Now the fact that big brands will sell pride merch, exclusive to June (even though we celebrate pride all year round), just feels off to me. These are brands that know where the money is and that is all they care about. They do the bare minimum during June, and completely stop caring the day July starts. If they actually cared, if they actually supported LGBTQ+ people both on the inside of their brand and as models, influencers, etc., it wouldn't feel as....icky.
I am speaking about BLM as a white woman, so take this with a grain of salt. But I only really saw BLM clothes and accessories in the first month, give or take, of the George Floyd nationwide protests. That is when people are paying attention the most, and thus more susceptible to buying. Profiting off of Black misery is, and this should go without saying, horrific. It's been a pattern in the U.S. for the past 400 years, but there's no need to perpetuate it. Profiting off of this just seems incredibly disrespectful. Not through the fault of the protestors, just that of the media, when BLM gets accessorized, it becomes downplayed, and attention shifted to the statement of wearing it rather than the point of the movement itself.
We have arrived at a point in time where we have this unnatural urge to monetize everything. We must stop to think through what we are doing, and why. Capitalism beats down the already oppressed, so why take our activism to the free market?