This weekend sex-positive Vice Magazine, Dell computers, and Intel processors launched Noisey, a website where professional film makers will present their documentary footage of bands before, during, and after live performances around the world. Noisey has a rainbow CD logo and threw their launch party at Austin’s newest gay bar Kiss & Fly—a place where cage dancers grind overhead and lesbians make out in the lower bar. When I drunkenly asked Vice about the rainbow logo and gay bar launch site, he just shrugged and said that Kiss & Fly was a cool space. Then when I asked the Dell spokesperson if their site featured any queer artists, he said that the site has no politics beyond the music. But since Noisey promotes international music (when some countries still outlaw Western music) and supports bands like Das Racist who rap about ghettos, weed, corporatism and harangue the “cracker shitheads” in their audience to go home, the “no politics” stance seems a little disingenuous. But should I have really expected a brand new business to have an articulated stance on gay anything? Does it even matter that they didn’t?
I definitely brought my own agenda to our brief conversation. I’m a gay journalist for fuck’s sake; what the hell else are we supposed to talk about? And though a little less vodka and a little more tact might have opened up the Vice and Dell representatives to reflect a little more on the connection between their work and queer music lovers worldwide, does our community really need to know where every business stands on queers before deciding whether to support them or not?
Sometimes it seems like businesses can’t win either way: if a business claims to be pro-queer, they get criticized for “pinkwashing” (that is, claiming pro-gay identity merely to get pink dollars). If they don’t issue make a pro-queer press release right off the bat, then they’re immediately bigots. Pro-gay business can potentially isolate themselves from straight consumers who assume they only cater to a queer clientele. It can also piss off queers who think “Oh yeah, like I’m gonna go to your crappy store just because you’re gay.” Take Sony’s all-queer label Music With A Twist. It came out in January of 2006 and where is it now? Dead. That’s what you get when you only cater to the listening tastes of one in ten people.
Noam Chomsky was right when he said you can’t be neutral on a moving train, but lots of American businesses have issued no statement whatsoever about their queers sentiments and many of them don’t financially compensate their partnered queer employees to make up for the buttraping we get at the hands of DOMA and the IRS. Does this make those businesses anti-queer too? What’s the alternative? Growing your own garden, spinning your own fabric, and generating your own electricity until you have gay friendly report cards for every single retailer, restaurant, and public utility in your town? Bollocks.
Since the public opinion and the almighty dollar weigh so heavily in the battle for equality, we need businesses that take stands out of the box. All sorts of political groups ask corporations to take stances on social issues. Environmentalists regularly take Nike to task for its sweatshops and the company donates to girls schools to court lady shoppers. So while it may seem unfair to label the local sandwich shop as queerphobic just because it doesn’t advertise with posters of homos and transgender people eating their six-inch subs, it’s definitely fair to say that in this day and age, any business that makes no effort to at least acknowledge and accommodate their potentially queer clientele simply isn’t doing enough… for human rights or their own business.
NOTE: At the time of publication I reached out to Vice Magazine, Dell, and Intel for additional comment but only Vice Magazine had agreed to discuss these issues later this week. When we do, I will publish a follow-up article.