Credit: Original article can be found here
OPINION: Every June, queer people across the Internet – largely on Twitter and TikTok – participate in an important Pride tradition: viciously roasting the year’s most vapid examples of rainbow capitalism. Also known as “pink capitalism/washing”, rainbow capitalism is an umbrella term for the commercialisation and commodification of Pride.
Queer people mock corporations for their attempts to exploit marginalised communities and turn them into markets – with the blunt tool that is slapping a rainbow on everything (we’re looking at you, Listerine).
In addition to undermining the very stylish people the movement is designed to uplift, rainbow capitalism has produced some of the most offensively ugly branding in existence.
As a queer person, I can’t say I’ve ever felt particularly unsupported or unrepresented by the couch community. But Ikea has released a collection of love seats, each inspired by different identities across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. And I kind of love it.
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Each piece was designed or created by an artist who is part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. That iteration of the acronym includes people who are two-spirit (similar to takatāpui in Te Reo Māori), an Indigenous American term that encompasses the spectrum of gender and sexuality.
There are 10 love seats in total, inspired by the pansexual flag, lesbian flag, asexual flag and more. All the designs are accompanied by the story of the person who inspired them.
Is this a brazen publicity stunt? Well duh. Would I rush out and buy the pretty paintbrush-like lesbian one the moment the long-awaited Ikea New Zealand opens its doors? Also yes.
The design getting the most buzz ‘round the social media traps is the bisexual couch.
There are blue, pink, and purple hands all over it, and detached limbs on the armrests. The sofa as been dubbed a “horror move prop” and the “gaslighting couch” on Twitter.
Canadian poet Brian Lanigan, whose work inspired artist Charlotte Carbone’s sofa design, explained the confrontational words sewn into the cushions.
“When you change ‘or’ to ‘and,’ nobody believes you,” is a part of a poem he wrote in high school about “bisexual erasure [he] experienced from an ex-partner and others.”
He seems to be taking the memes in stride, changing his Twitter display name to “bisexual couch guy brian.”
The promotional video shows a lot more of the texture in these pieces than the photos do justice. The fluffiness of the nonbinary couch is particularly inviting, as is the delightful tulle poof on the asexual couch. I don’t know why, but something about the little clouds on the transgender couch just made my heart squeeze.
But while I understand that the progress flag is meant to be an art piece, in practice I don’t relish the idea of constantly perching to avoid getting prodded by a flower. Maybe it doubles as a posture-improvement apparatus?
To Ikea’s credit, the love seats aren’t actually for sale.
They will be on display at select locations across Canada throughout their summer aligned with regional Pride celebrations.That might be for the best, as I imagine trying to assemble them would cause just as many arguments for queer couples as it does for straight ones.
We don’t see quite as much of rainbow capitalism here in New Zealand because we have our own Pride month in February, rather than June like the US and UK.
Auckland Pride festival director Max Tweedie said he thinks the Ikea campaign is a fun idea. He liked that they’ve involved the stories of queer people from across the community, but he wouldn’t be putting one of the impractical designs in his industrial-style central Auckland apartment.
“The two most harmful parts, to me, of rainbow capitalism is not donating the profits to queer organisations and not supporting queer artists. So for any brand considering doing something for Pride, those are the two key things to ensure from the outset,” he said.
“But more than that, I think organisations should always look to contribute more meaningfully, whether that’s publicly advocating for key pieces of legislation to pass, partnering with and sponsoring a rainbow community organisation, and ensuring they are empowering and supporting their own rainbow staff.”
The worst example he can think of rainbow capitalism this year was Target’s Rainbow Suit.
“It was so hilariously ugly that I saw some describe it as: What’s both gay and homophobic?”
“My other favourite genre of rainbow capitalism this year was brands changing their logos on their global and western social accounts to pride colours, but not where they had accounts/branches in countries where it’s actually illegal to be queer.
“Oh, and the Marks and Spencer LGBT (lettuce, guacamole, bacon + tomato) sandwich will never not be funny to me.”
Ultimately, rainbow people can see right through phoney rainbow capitalism – “and it will probably become subject to ridicule online, which isn’t a cute look.”
As a business owner, you’re almost always better off donating to organisations that will be happy to receive your support, and connect you to queer artists too.
“It’s not difficult,” said Tweedie.
Personally, I feel the existence of a lesbian couch, a bisexual couch, pansexual couch etc. puts the aggressively heterosexual leather vinyl couch I have at home to shame. Maybe it’s time to convince the flatmates to invest in something with more panache.