This is not an explicit critique of the way in which many companies jump on the bandwagon in order to generate profit from these so-called liberal trends. Rather, this article aims to expose the hypocrisy behind many of their actions. Of course, companies will utilise any new social shifts, and embrace them if they see it as a viable means of generating profit. However, this would perhaps be justified if their support for these progressive causes extended beyond simply selling a version of them which is deemed as financially beneficial.
How sincere is their support?
Our generation is notably more socially liberal than our predecessors’. In today’s society, we have constructed an environment in which LGBTQ+ movements are slowly gaining recognition and becoming accepted (although we have a long way to go, and we are by no means cohesively inclusive yet). And companies have noticed this. They have pounced. From creating LGBT / ‘Pride’ ranges in their products for Pride Month, to adopting LGBT logos in support of the movement, more and more companies are demonstrating their alliance to the movement. This is by no means wrong, and it is refreshing that they are using their platform for such a good cause. However, we cannot ignore the other side of this ostensibly descriptive means of support. Whilst many companies appear to support LGBTQ+ rights and causes, an inspection into their inner workings suggests the underlying hypocrisy of their actions.
One example of this is Adidas. They have created a special ‘pride pack’ collection, which sells merchandise in honour of Pride Month. However, it is important to note that Adidas also sponsor the World Cup in Russia. This country is notorious for its anti-LGBTQ laws, which ostracise the LGBTQ+ community. This highlights the very way in which such companies extend their support for LGBTQ+ causes only at face value, which does not expand beyond descriptive gestures.
Furthermore, another example of this is YouTube. Whilst they did appear to celebrate ‘Pride Month’, even releasing a video in support of it, and changing their logo to encompass the LGBT flag, they still continue to restrict LGBTQ+ content. It has been noted that YouTube has demonetized many LGBTQ+ videos, even flagging some content which has references to ‘trans rights’. This is not only demonstrative of the way in which they need to eradicate their apathetic efforts at promoting such causes, but also how it can be extremely harmful to the community. For many, such videos can be a source of education and empowerment. To add fuel to the fire, YouTube have also allowed Anti-LGBTQ+ ads to run on LGBTQ+ videos. Some YouTubers, such as Hank Green, have called these ads running on LGBTQ+ channels ‘despicable and gross and disgusting’. This serves to exhibit how many companies need to do more to ensure that their support for such causes is more genuine, and not simply a means of profiting off the market these causes cater towards.
YouTube admitted to having ‘let the LGBTQ+ community down’.
And it doesn’t stop there.
This generation is becoming more and more liberal, exemplified partially in its growing acceptance of the feminist movement. Retailers have noticed this, and arguably are profiting from the women’s empowerment movement. More and more young women are demonstrating their support for the cause through merchandise, whether this be bags, mugs, or the infamous ‘Feminist’ T-shirts. However, there has been an unfortunate trend in the way in which these products — in particular the T-shirts — have been produced.
The most recent example mirrors the incident which came to light in 2014. The Spice Girls created T-shirts with the branding of ‘Feminist’, in collaboration with Comic Relief. Whilst it is nice to see that these T-shirts had an empowering message, with proceeds going towards charitable causes, we were once again exposed to the superficiality of their commitment to the cause. It was revealed that the T-shirts were made by women in Bangladesh who were only paid 37 pence an hour. Not only is this deplorable, as they are clearly exploited for cheap labour, but this also negates the very message that the companies appear to be promoting. A similar incident occurred in 2014, when T-shirts sold by Whistles, in collaboration with the Fawcett Society, labelled: ‘This is what a feminist looks like’, were revealed to be produced by women in Mauritius who were paid only 62 pence an hour. It should go without saying, but your feminism is invalid if it does not cater to the interests of ALL women, including those in the Global South. We need to hold these companies to account in their posturing support for such causes which extends only to the point which allows them to capitalise off their growing trends and movements.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which companies have attempted to harness profit by embracing the new progressive movements in our society. To elucidate one thing, I am in no way criticising their support for these causes, as I think it is admirable when companies use their platform and privilege to do so. However, the issue arises from the fact that their endorsement is not always sincere. It would be uplifting to see an instance in which a company does not have morally ambiguous intentions when backing such causes. This corporate hypocrisy needs to be eradicated, to ensure that these movements are not exploited and used as a face to simply generate profit, so that they are considered intrinsically valid.