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FASHION POLITICS

Rainbow Money Has Arrived

“Who made my pride merch?”
The problematic politics behind your favorite fashion brands, and how we can fix it.

By Mildred Flores
June 29, 2020

A few days ago I was checking my Instagram when I saw a photo that said: “Who made my pride merch?” I realized that I had never really asked myself this. We get carried away by the rainbows but we really don’t know the true intentions of the brands. Are the owners of these companies (and not just clothing brands) in favor of the movement or do they just want to fill their pockets? Is this merchandise made in countries where being gay is legal? Do they donate money to LGBT+ charities using the profits of the pride merchandise? And most importantly, are their workers in a safe work environment with fair wages, or are they being exploited?

IG: @notsosloppy

First, we must begin to ask ourselves where this merchandise is made. Do they protect their garment workers and ensure the safety of their LGBT+ workers? Probably not, since much of this merchandise is tipically manufactured in countries such as China, Turkey, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Mexico and India, to mention just a few. All of these countries have a poor track record on gay rights, and allow discrimination and abuse. For example, in Myanmar, being gay is grounds for imprisonment. In India and Bangladesh, homosexuality is criminalized. In Turkey and Mexico homosexuality isn’t a crime, but the LGBT+ community is not safe and
there are no laws to protect them. In Mexico alone, 6 out of 10 LGBT + people suffer from discrimination, and 6.5 LGBT+ people are assassinated every month. We see workers from these countries creating merchandise saying “Love is Love”, while in their own countries “Love isn’t Love”, and it could mean prison or death.

Turkey transgender murder prompts Istanbul protest, 2013.

Then we must find out the real intentions of companies in relation to the LGBT+ community.
One would think that because they sell merchandise full of rainbows and “support” the movement, a part of the profits would be donated to LGBT+ charities, but this is not the case. They simply fill their pockets at the expense of a movement that only seeks to have the same rights as others (human rights that were taken away the moment they decided to be themselves) because there is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to transition or love someone of the same sex.
However, just from 2017-2018, several corporations made donations to anti-gay politicians, and between 9 corporations alone, collected $14,891,413 in the United States. Despite the fact that when it’s pride month several of these companies post rainbows and produce rainbow merchandice, saying that it has nothing to do with the LGBT+ community merely calling it a “business and connection issue.” But we have already seen what happens when an anti-gay person governs an entire country such as in the case of Donald Trump in the United States or Vladimir Putin in Russia where they have no real freedom of expression, together with the previously mentioned countries.

This hypocrisy is dangerous.

Tilda Swinton holding rainbow flag in Moscow in defense of LGBT+ community.

So, what can we do about it?

1. Do your research: Start getting to know the companies we buy from and not just during pride month. Know where they make their products, if their workers are well paid, and if they’re in a suitable work environment. No one should suffer when manufacturing your merchandise.
2. Hold brands accountable: Require them to change and be more transparent, or just stop buying from them. How? Sign and share petitions, comment on a brand’s IG, Twitter and Facebook posts, Email them, call them out in your social posts or boycott them. Without buyers, these companies simply disappear. Never forget that at the end of the day, you have the power to choose and make a difference.
3. Buy from LGBT-owned brands: Support companies with owners from LGBT+ community or companies that actually donate money to LGBT+ charities, How do we know which brands to support?. Like we said, do your research! Google the name of the company, and read the articles that appear. The only way to put an end to these brands that don’t support their workers is to get into the habit of INVESTIGATING the brand!

If you want to read more about this topic, here a just a few links to get you started. (click)