I feel that Pride month is more visible than ever in the streets of Helsinki this year. There are flags and colors everywhere, and even companies and organizations that I wouldn’t have expected to take a stand on the question have for example colored their logos again for the occasion or shared about LGBTQ+ rights on their social media pages. Pride has also been quite visible in the media in Finland, with mixed opinions making headlines as the church is for the first time this year an official partner of the main Helsinki Pride event and some people have quite a strong opinion on this. I think it’s a big step forward to have such an organization with a long tradition and a lot of influence come and make this statement about the importance of equal rights for all.
Something that has raised thoughts in me though is the commercialization of Pride. It’s amazing to see how companies take a stronger stand on the topic by putting flags and rainbow colors in their stores and websites or by creating social media publications on the topic, but it’s clear that in addition to being a statement, for them it is first and foremost a marketing strategy. Even more obviously, many brands have started selling pride merchandise at this time of the year, with H&M for example creating a whole collection for the occasion. In these situations, it is justified to wonder if this promotion of human rights is not working against itself, with over-consumption destroying our planet and the more than questionable transparency and ethics of production. Has the pride hype gone too far?
It’s important to remember that companies essentially around money. But does that make them evil by default? I don’t think so. Companies can also have strong values and ethical and ecological ways of working. Some companies are born from the passion to create a better world while making a living, but most have realized at a later stage that turning a company “ethical” or “eco-friendly” can actually make profit. Either way, the result is the same as they have an impact on people’s way of consuming and thinking, and on the long run on the state of things on a bigger scale too. If someone makes a living with it as well, what do others lose in that? In a society built around money, it’s unrealistic to expect change to happen if there is no incentive related to money, whether that’s profit or sanctions.
The problematic situation for me is when companies’ so-said “ideology” and brand don’t match with their ways of functioning. It is purely hypocritical that a company selling fast fashion produced by those in the most vulnerable position for almost free, in terrible conditions and certainly not in ecological conditions, claims to fight for human rights for all through “love is love” statements.
Still, cases like the ones that have been in the Finnish media lately, about people fighting against everyone’s right to love and be whoever they want to be, prove that these events to raise awareness are still needed, even if in an ideal world it should be Pride day every day and it shouldn’t even be a big deal. And although companies do get their own benefit from being a part of the movement, it doesn’t exclude the fact that thanks to them, Pride keeps growing and gaining more and more visibility, and hopefully also reaching more people. It’s hard to measure whether these companies do more good than bad, and that’s why the commercialization of Pride creates such mixed opinions.
It’s great to have more and more people and companies take a stand on the question of LGBTQ+ rights and the right to love and be whoever each one of us wants to. But as consumers, we should also send keep sending more messages to companies that they need to live up to what they claim to be their values or they will lose customers. In order to create change in business, consumers need to do their part and demand it. When it comes to Pride and the current situation, you could think that even if companies don’t live up to those values for now, at least they contribute to the aims of Pride and have a broad outreach, even if superficially so. I don’t know if that’s positive thinking or crude, but I try to see it as a step in the right direction nevertheless.
At the same time, Pride has become a true celebration of diversity, good company and summer. Many look forward to this day more than any other celebration of the year, some even “tour” Pride parades around the world as a hobby. Pride has been criticized for this as well, with the argument that it has lost its original role as a human rights movement and demonstration. I don’t think it has. On the contrary, turning it into a positive, happy celebration for all is the best way to show the world that everyone deserves to be whoever they want to, and one person’s happiness doesn’t take anything away from others. Happiness is best shared, and that’s what Pride is about.
These are some thoughts that Pride month raises in me. For me it’s about pride and happiness, but unfortunately even the things with the best intentions are rarely just that simple. What thoughts do Pride month or my thoughts raise in you?
Happy Pride month to everyone, I at least am sure that no matter what, we’re setting one more stone this month on the way to a world where everyone can be proud of who they are and who they love.