take pride shop fixture with rainbow items for sale

Way Off Target: Why the retail giant’s U-turn has come at the perfect time

From a PR perspective, the timing of Target’s CEO talking up all things inclusivity just days before the American retail giant decided to remove some of its LGBTQIA+ merchandise amid backlash couldn’t be any worse. 

However, I’m inclined to argue the complete opposite. 

Frankly from where I’m sitting, Pride Month consists far too much of brands talking a good game but walking away when the conversation gets too difficult. Or as soon as July 1st arrives. 

Let’s get one thing straight before we start – staff and customer safety should always be paramount. So if there was any indication that either could be compromised, then taking the steps necessary to protect them is – in essence –  the right call to make. 

My issues lie slightly elsewhere though. 

First and foremost with the bigots. That should always go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. It’s one thing to be filled with so much hate and vim towards a group of people who simply wish to be their authentic selves freely. 

It’s another thing altogether if the mere sight of a rainbow or #Pride drives you to such uncontrollable levels of anger. 

Like seriously, have a word with yourselves, and please – get a f*cking grip. 

This has also set a very, very dangerous precedent. 

Most of us are already aware of rainbow washing. However, this latest move from Target hammers home suspicions of queer acceptance being undoubtedly conditional more than ever. 

It’s brazen as f*ck. 

Their mantra is simple: “we’re with you…But only for 30 days a year…or, until there’s any vague sense of backlash.” And I hate it. 

Honestly. What sort of allyship is that? 

Target aren’t alone in this either, not by a long stretch. Quite literally, like clockwork, businesses spend every June embellishing their brands in a bid to stand in solidarity with a community that would really benefit from vocal support for the other 11 months of the year, but hey. 

PR disaster? Yes. Perfect time for an uncomfortable conversation? Absolutely. 

As discussed, the timing of this debacle couldn’t be any worse for Target. But I’m fed up with big brands using Pride Month as a way to ignore the real issues that the LGBT+ community is facing and pretend that everything is hunky dory. 

And that’s coming from me, a Cishet man. Albeit an ally, but a Cishet man nevertheless.

So I can only begin to imagine how the community themselves feel about being – for the large part – profited off by big organisations until the time comes to actually stand up and be counted. 

Some may argue that Target has no real place wading in on the long and complex topic that is LGBTQIA+ rights. My rebuttal is quite simple though – they have no problem rainbow washing when there’s money to be made, or a bandwagon to jump on. 

This should be no different. 

The same way misogyny and violence against women isn’t a problem that women should be dealing with alone. Or, the same way racism isn’t just an issue for non-white people to tackle. 

Societal issues are issues for all of society. There’s no easier way of saying it. 

The Target fiasco is emblematic of the way big brands generally handle Pride Month. 

You’ll have to really dig deep to find a mainstream brand that shows genuine allyship either side of Pride Month. 

The turbulent events at Target recently add gravitas to the argument that genuine queer acceptance is some way off really being achieved, that’s a given. For me though, that’s more reason than ever to make sure we have these conversations all year round. 

Unsurprisingly, a few weeks of being told that true equality is on the horizon is so easily undone by cases like this. Because it’s not an accurate reflection of the struggles that the LGBTQIA+ community still face everyday. 

Of course, Pride Month is a time for celebration. And despite spending the best part of 500 words saying otherwise – there has been so much progress. 

Although it’s nowhere near enough.

In 2023, we still live in a world where Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill exists. 

We still live in a world where the largest men’s sporting event in the world can take place in a country where homosexuality is illegal. 

So yes, while society has come a long way since the The Stonewall riots in 1969, this is a process still very much in its infancy. 

The fiasco surrounding Target may present a PR disaster for the retailers, but it’s also the perfect time to address what’s continuously swept under the carpet. 

We all still need to do so much better, and not just for a few weeks in June.