by Eleanor Goldfield
Back in 2014, the fracking company Baker Hughes announced pink drill bits in partnership with Susan G. Komen for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Truly, nothing says booby cancer better than a bright pink fracking bit. Of course, this nefarious partnership wasn't actually trying to highlight the well-documented connection between cancer and fracking, they were trying to suggest that fracking and healthy boobs are somehow bosom buddies...sorry, not sorry.
This pink drill bit was one in a prolific list of instances where corporate America has burrowed into legitimate causes (or in this case, a legitimate cause already de-legitimized by its neoliberal profit-based framework) and like body snatchers worn the facade of humanitarian interests for the sake of PR and profit.
The system is narrowly malleable, allowing a shift in the Overton window which remains barred by capitalist theory built into a prison founded on genocide, slavery and American exceptionalism. There's always room for adjustments, even slight renovations – we can put rainbow trim around the door here, isn't that nice. Corporate America, likewise the imperialist machine that backs it has become well-versed in the rigid wiggle room of appearances. Throw up a pride flag, a 'Black Lives Matter' banner, and then just carry on with business as usual – business that of course flies in the face of the demands put forward by any movement founded on basic human rights. In short, redecorate your prison, but never talk about razing it to the ground.
Take the recent images of pride flags celebrating the first “all gay helicopter crew” in the US Navy. Because nothing says pride like uplifting US imperialism, bombing children, staging coups and crippling economic warfare, and partnering with nations like Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is illegal and those found guilty are subjected to public lashings, imprisonment and death. Happy Pride!
The fact that Lockheed Martin has an “employee resource group” called PRIDE makes me feel just as warm and cozy as the fact that their CEO is a woman. Intersectional imperialism isn't what I'm after as a queer woman. I'm after justice. I'm after liberation. And that does not exist within the confines of capitalist imperialism.
You'll often hear the phrase “the first pride was a riot.” To me, that's far more than some punk rock refrain. It's a call to action. It's a reminder that we as queer folx have always been otherwise. We have existed outside the boxes of acceptability. And our demand wasn't to become a member of the oppressor class, but to burn down the structures of oppression altogether, not just for ourselves, but in solidarity with all of those who live under the boot of Uncle Sam.
There can be no Pride in corporate America just as there can be no peace in war, no freedom in slavery, no strength in ignorance – to borrow from Orwell.
Pride should absolutely be a celebration – a time for us to live and love out loud. But it should always also be a riot, an unabashed reminder of our existence as resistance – our commitment to liberation, to life and love that can only flourish in the fertile soil of a burned prison.
This piece originally appeared in the July issue of The Queer Art Collective Zine. You can see more of this issue and more of the collective's work at https://www.thequeerartcollective.org/zine
Under capitalism, pride is for sale – all pride – pride in body, pride in mind, pride in culture, pride in home, pride in all the intersections and layers of who you are. This is, of course because, under capitalism, we are for sale. We are both the consumer and the product, meant to mindlessly consume both propaganda and products while efficiently packaging and selling ourselves to jobs and niche identities that can be displayed on corporate banners, used as check marks in diversity hires and tokenized - from board rooms to tik tok.
Moreover, multinational corporations dump billions into campaigns that seek to limit
we've always been otherwise.
In these clean and conformed boxes, there's no room for free thinkers. There's no room for creativity, bizareness or weirdness. There's no room for queerness. If queer is weird and, as Douglas Rushkoff wrote “weirdness is power” in this system, there is no room for queerness within the confines of a corporate, imperialist, capitalist framework.
This is why it's so viscerally disgusting to see the raw and real pride of queerness mass produced in cookie cutter sameness in order to prop up the architects of our oppression.
Rainbow flags are plastered across buildings and websites of companies and institutions that
Art helped me embrace my queerness and queerness helped me embrace life as an artist – a life necessarily outside the confines of the acceptable, the expected, the
In short, humanity and all our facets – from public health to human rights – can not co-exist with capitalism or the imperialist war machine that promotes and protects it.
It's the Midas Touch – everything corporate America touches turns to stockholder profit, and becomes completely useless and lifeless, from food to pride. But boy ain't it nice and shiny to look at.
Much like we saw last summer when corporations were quick and eager to print massive “Black Lives Matter” banners or affix them to their websites, pride flags have become the liberal go-to for driving PR and profits.