On the Hi-Jacking of Pride by The Corporate World.
29th June 2015.
At the weekend, like millions of other people I coloured my FB profile picture with a 28th Rainbow and celebrated those aspects of Pride that I felt were meaningful to me. I wrote a post about three young gay boys on the tube giving a glimpse (as my friend Darren put it) of ‘a life unencumbered’, the sight of whom had really touched me and filed me with hope. I didn’t want to ‘rain on the parade’ as it were, but there was something really getting my goat about Pride this year …
I do think Pride is an important space for LBGT people – I certainly wouldn’t want it not to be there, but I am definitely haunted by the word ‘hijacking’ in relation to the march this year. I wasn’t there on the March, but I was in London in the run up to it and found myself getting increasingly angry at the corporate adverts in support of Pride on the tube and on buses. Those by Barclays were particularly disturbing. They were very much about Barclays and only incidentally about Pride. One really struck me: a black guy with a quote about how great it is for him to be accepted by his employers for being gay (or something along those lines). Barclays? Really? The same Barclays who were heavily invested in the apartheid regime in South Africa and only divested after a massive campaign to expose and shame them. (They certainly didn’t divest because they thought better of it all by themselves).
This may seem like digging into Pre-History, but I think it’s still relevant. Change doesn’t come because the exploitative classes have a damascene moment of enlightenment. Change comes through struggle to bring about that change.
And so … back to that word ‘hijacking’.
My first Pride march was back in 1985. According to numbers I can find on the net there were 10,000 of us there. We were booed by people on the street, marchers were spat at, the police were certainly not the friendly, touchy-feely presence they are these days. Leaving the safety of the March there was always a sense of danger of being attacked on the street. Barclays weren’t there advertising themselves back then. They weren’t supporting LBGT groups in any way as far as I remember.
I can’t get out of my mind the image of a playground bully, who once the bullied person has somehow become popular enough that it’s no longer feasible to bully them and get away with it, seeks an alliance with them. But crucially, the alliance being offered isn’t based on the rejection of bullying; It’s simply that the bully can only maintain their power-base by incorporating the once-bullied into their ranks. It’s great for the bully because they suddenly look incredibly just and fair and for the once-bullied it seems on the surface like society is moving forward – hey, history is on our side, we would be mean-spirited to exclude anyone from our party. Except – the bullies are still bullies. They still bully those they can get away with bullying – in fact their very existence is based upon the exploitation of others. I really feel that the corporate bullies who are responsible for so much suffering in our society have piggy-backed on to a struggle that they had no part in supporting when that support was needed but are happy to gain positive advertising from it now.
And on the subject of advertising: it’s easy to confine your visible LGBT support to the March and to London – you’ll largely be reaching those who agree with the cause of the party you’ve gate-crashed and so you won’t risk losing business. I certainly don’t ever see images that reflect my life in mainstream advertising. How about having LGBT people in your mainstream advertising campaigns and reflecting the diversity of the population in places where it actually might make a difference? … Hmmm, too scared of risking a loss in profit and alienating that mythical beast, ‘Middle England’?
Back to the tube … part of why that image of the three invincible young gayboys touched me so much, was because a young woman I know (a student at the school where I teach) was punched in the face for being gay on the tube just a couple of weeks ago. We’ve got a long way to go …