Standing up for homos is becoming the cool thing to do. Taylor Swift champions this move gay-ward with a scene from her new video Mean. In it, she shows a Chris Colfer lookalike getting harassed by an entire football team and sings, “You, pickin’ on the weaker man… / Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me / And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.” It’s a catchy song and a great message, but is she emblematic of a larger trend where companies and artists voice support for queers, but stop short offering anything other than talk?
Don’t misunderstand us: We’re using Ms. Swift simply as a jumping off point for this discussion. In all likelihood, Ms. Swift may have simply recognized her gay fans and the need for anti-bullying outreach and included the GLEE-esque scene in her video because it’s a worthwhile thing to do. But it’s naive to think that every company purporting to support gay equality does so without some hope of financial gain. It’s undeniably great that companies now acknowledge queer customers instead of ignoring or insulting them in fear of boycott, but that doesn’t mean each business claiming to support gay rights actually does.
Take Target for instance. They claim to support LGBT consumers even though they prohibit LGBT bloggers from covering their events, sue gay marriage organizations for canvassing in front of their stores, failed in their short-loved plan to fund pro-gay groups via Lady Gaga sales, and haven’t changed their corporate giving policies in regards to funding anti-gay candidates.
Target’s horribly bungled PR represents an extreme case, but the HRC still initially gave them a 100% corporate equality index rating leading LGBTs to think spending their money there would help further queer-friendly business when they were apparently mislead. But also consider Nicki Minaj’s recent lyric about homos being “soft” or Britney Spears’ decision to play one of her concerts in The Castro. Ms. Minaj disavows homophobia by saying that rappers who using anti-gay slurs are just playing characters, Ms. Spears has twittered in support of gay rights but how much have they or other “gay friendly” artists actually done to help make acceptance a socio-political reality.
When you consider how many companies have made “It Gets Better” videos and how many artists and athletes will continue to come out in support of gay rights, it’s important to welcome their support but to also keep an eye on what concrete things they do to promote gay-rights. They might just be trying to gain gay bucks as opposed to offering anything other than speech.