Philly Pride: Love Can Be More Profitable Than Hate

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I’m not sure I’ve been to a more corporate event than Philly Pride—and I’ve been to Women in the World. There were some organizations that have clearly earned the right to march in Pride. The local children’s hospital, one of the best in the country, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has a Gender and Sexuality Clinic which offers psychosocial and medical support for gender non-conforming or gender queer  children and youth up to age 21 and their families. Planned Parenthood, the City of Philadelphia, and the YMCA all do gender and sexuality work year round. The William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, and Miss’d America Pageant are obvious participants there in all their glory. Bizarrely, there were at least thirty-five companies, nine of them financial institutions, competing for the biggest show of corporate Pride. Other than MAC cosmetics which has been supporting the LGBTQIA community in real ways since 1994, I’ve never seen any of these companies showing pride at any other time of year. Now I have a Discover Pride bag and a 76ers hat. TD Bank handed out neon green whistles on rainbow lanyards with their logo. I blew it enthusiastically throughout the parade but from now on it will be used as a rape whistle. Thanks, TD.

Earlier I used the phrase “the right to march in Pride.” The more I wrote the less comfortable I felt with this phrasing but I left it in because I think it’s important to show how our attitudes develop as we consider situations. I do think that there are companies and organizations that show up for Pride every day of the year, sometimes in subtle or internal ways that those not working for the company can’t see—like allowing same sex partners to be added to health insurance. But what about the companies who only show up for the Pride Parade where they can use it as a way to increase their brand recognition and do some easy advertising? Do they not have a right to march? Technically, Philly Pride, the parade committee makes that determination but we have to decide how we respond to their presence.

I felt conflicted seeing these companies, particularly the financial institutions, in the parade. Part of me was disgusted with the blatant commercialism. To paraphrase Alfred from Miracle on 34th Street, “There are a lot of bad isms in the world but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Don’t care what Pride stands for just make a buck, make a buck.” But once I got over my aversion to these brands all working the rainbow into their logo I started looking at the people who were marching in their contingent. These were employees and they were thrilled to be there. Some of them were holding hands with people of the same sex, many were carrying homemade signs, and all of them were smiling. They were employees of the massive corporations who got to go to Pride on their company’s dime, with their company logo on their rainbow shirt.

Only a matter of years ago this was inconceivable. People were at risk of losing their jobs just for admitting who they loved, never mind prancing around the public streets holding hands and waving rainbow flags in their employer’s gear. For me, watching, this was a gross show of companies seeking to profit from decades of struggles of which they were on the wrong side, if they were involved at all. For their employees though, it means a safer workplace, an employer who, whatever the motivation, will let them be themselves, and a chance to march in Pride with their coworkers. As I say, this was not possible only a few short years ago. Even as recently as 2016 when I was last at Philly Pride, there were not nearly this many companies.

In 2018, $224 billion was spent on advertising in the United States. The estimate for 2019 is $240 billion. Companies as big as the ones who showed up to Philly Pride—Target, Pet Smart, Comcast, Lyft, T-Mobile, etc.—aren’t going to spend that kind of money unless they’ve done their research on what people want to see. Advertising agencies—more than non-profits, more than pollsters, more than government agencies—know what the current climate is. Their job is to know what people like, what people want, and to what people will respond. These companies would not be at Pride if they didn’t think that acceptance, inclusion, and equality was something to which people responded. If Americans were becoming more bigoted, divided, and oppressive these corporations would know it and they wouldn’t throw their lot in with Pride. Advertising has promoted sexism, racism, homophobia, and countless other prejudicial positions when that was profitable. The fact that they are at Pride in these numbers shows that they’ve done the research and found that love can be more profitable than hate.

Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist

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