This month you’re going to see a lot of companies putting rainbows on their products. A bunch of what they do is going to look very cool, even whipping some degree or measure of ass. Consider these rad shirt designs from Wizards of the Coast, which if you like their iconography for their games, integrates really good design aesthetics with the brand.
Don’t buy them.
I pick this shirt because specifically, I think based on my experience dealing with them, that the front-end, do-things, make-things-you-care-about people of Wizards of the Coast are, themselves, people who are going to be good with this iconography. Almost certainly, the people who chose to make these shirts, present these shirts, designed the graphics and the website and the front-end that gets you the shirts, each of those person is not in fact a giant shithead, and probably wants those shirts to exist to wear them and share them. These shirts are, in a way, a ‘best case’ example of Pride Shirts made by a corporation.
I still want to recommend you not buy them.
Part of this is that even this ‘Good Faith’ example of a corporate pride purchase is going to be run through a company that is also trying to do its best to benefit from pre-existing antiqueer conditions. It’s still the company that treated Orion Black badly. The people at the layer you can interact with are definitely pro-queer, but the people above them making decisions seem to be more okay with compliance with the status quo (and therefore oppression and marginalisation of queer people).
Setting that aside, though, corporations are passengers at pride. Yes, even the ones with queer employees. There are a bunch of queer folk who work at Wizards and who were involved in those shirts, I’m sure! Thing is, the point of the brand and the corporation is to minimise those people’s existence in the name of the entity that Is Wizards Of The Coast. Wizards doesn’t get to say ‘we pay our queer employees’ as a way to justify their position in queer media spaces.
Buy them after the month is over, buy them another time, but my point is that Pride Month is a month that queer people and communities make and maintain and we do it in defiance of the privileged status quo. Corporations get to join in the parade, but they don’t get to lead.
Now I recognise I have an incentive here: I am a queer creator and I made a bunch of queer designs and you could celebrate pride by buying them. That would be nice! But I also am not linking it here because I think it diminishes my point and because part of my urge here is to try and get you to think about queer stores and creatives you’ve look at but not bought from yet.
Plus, honestly, if you buy one of my shirts or stickers, I’m not making the bulk of the money of that purchase. Redbubble is making the majority of that money, and yes, some of that is used to pay wages and some of that is used to pay transport costs and all that jazz. It would be pretty meh of me to say ‘don’t buy corporate pride stuff’ without being honest with you about that – that my own pride stuff is filtered through other corporations.
Is my print-on-demand stuff, agnostically made by a company that gives queer creators a lot of direct control better than Wizards of the Coast, a company that is trying to capitalise on Pride month? I mean… yes? I think so? Is it better enough to make my points about leaders and followers and community tools satisfyingly different to you?
I dunno, that’s up to you. I’m not a leader either.