Alex: Now that Pride parade season has come and gone for 2011, we can wipe the glitter from our eyes and discuss how we felt about this year’s pride festivities. Mainly, how much corporate sponsorship there was this year, at least in the larger Cities’ parades. This was my first Pride in Montreal and was kind of blown away by all the corporate visibility… is that standard now?
Rosel: I would say so. When you open the Vancouver Pride Society page, you’re greeted with a giant TD logo on the left side, with rotating logos of local media as sponsors. I guess the advertisers figured out that the gay male audience is an affluent demographic, often with two earners and many with no kids…so why not pander to it? I say gay male audience, because Pride (and the sponsored content) seems to feature white gay men more often than the other factions of the LGBTQ group. What do you think?
A: I don’t have a problem with businesses showing their support for the queer community, but there’s a serious imbalance in the ratio of businesses to actual queer organizations. There were maybe ten PFLAG members marching in the parade, and maybe 40 people handing out swag for the TD float that wrapped up the parade. I think that does a serious disservice to groups that are actually there to celebrate visibility and inclusion, not just improve their bottom line.
R: Yeah, and I think it’s problematic if corporate sponsorships start affecting which groups are represented – which is what I was trying to get at with my comment about the prominence of the “G” population in the LGBTQ umbrella. I think gay men are more desirable consumers for many businesses, so Pride becomes synonymous with them. But I understand that it’s hard to generate money outside of sponsorships…
A: Well, the queer movement has always been overshadowed by white gay male visibility, for various problematic reasons. What shocked me was coming from Edmonton, the majority of our floats were not businesses, and it was more diverse (AKA not just gay males). Do you think the homogeneous presence of all these businesses is a sign that the big gay meccas of Canada have lost touch with the roots of Pride, or is this ultimately a positive sign that inclusion has become less of an issue?
R: It’s always a double-edged sword, isn’t it? On the one hand, Pride being mainstream means that society at large is accepting LGBTQ identities more – but of course, as one group emerges as the dominant representation of that group, it’ll be co-opted by capitalism. What do you think of alternative celebrations like dyke marches? Should Pride be split into other things?
A: I think that events like the dyke marches are accomplishing things that Pride doesn’t, but it’s a real shame that the two concepts now seem mutually exclusive. I’m not really qualified to give my opinion as one of the aforementioned white gay guys, but I wish things like dyke marches could be part of how we celebrate Pride. I really didn’t feel a sense of encouragement and compassion out of watching the Montreal parade. No one was cheering on the PFLAG grannies marching down the street, and I think when we lose that sense of togetherness, we lose something vital to pride. What about you?
R: Well, as a hetero woman who is not qualified to answer either, I feel like Pride Parades have been pandering to my demographic. More and more straight women go to them to ogle at good-looking shirtless men, and that shouldn’t be the point of Pride. It’s also disturbing to see a guy driving a really nice car on the parade – at which point, I start asking: “how is that relevant?”
A: Comparatively shallow question: are you more likely to support a business knowing that it sponsored a Pride Parade float? Are you planning on switching banks anytime soon?
R: Well, I’m already a TD customer, so I’m already there, haha. What about you?
A: It’s funny, I make it a point to support businesses that make that kind of gesture, but I make an exception during Pride. It seems like too easy a marketing strategy and it doesn’t mean as much when I don’t see those businesses making the same effort a week after Pride.
R: Right, it’s like a last-minute effort as opposed to steady support. So let’s see how these corporations played into the Parade this year, shall we?
R: Via trains….so gay? Because they’re green??A: I won’t lie. This was my favorite corporate float. The little train was so cute! Um… but not really about Pride in any way.
R: Oh, the Trojans. They’re such a staple in Pride Parades now…but I’d like to see some thinking outside the box marketing, since I’ve seen these “Trojan” soldiers for so many years.
A: I will say that I’m glad to see safer sex messages are always a big part of Pride. I, however, was really disappointed in the models! They looked unhappy. Even they knew they were a cliché. Oh, and one clearly shaved his entire body the night before Pride and was covered from head to toe in razor burn (I guess he has an excuse for being sad).
R: Eeeew. Maybe he tried a new shaving gel/cream that gave him an allergic reaction!
R: I bet that’s someone’s car on the Kijiji team. Couldn’t they at least dress up?
R: IS HIS SHIRT TIED IN A KNOT?? His pants also look slightly flared. So 80s and 90s. He looks enthusiastic though.
A: Yes…I do appreciate the effort the Mojo team made though. They actually built a float that matched the space theme of this year, and had a theme beyond “dancing strippers”.
A: And here’s what I consider the most heinous of all: The Winners/HomeSense pride flag. Apparently they’ve been giving them out for years, hopefully before society realized how tacky it is to stick your brand name all over things.
R: This reminds me of McDonald’s having one of their domain names as i-am-asian.com, which brings you to the Asian division of the company. Can’t we at least claim our identities without paying contributions to corporations anymore?
A: Exactly. I don’t mind cheering for a Winners float, but I don’t want to be literally transformed into a walking billboard for them.
R: So what are some ways to show your pride or support the LGBTQ community without corporate sponsorship?
A: Queer inclusive sports clubs can be really fun, are good for your health, and I have friends who swear by them. I’m not much of an athlete, but I volunteer for the Montreal Roller Derby League, and that’s a pretty diverse organization. Er… even that has corporate sponsorship though, but at least Pabst Blue Ribbon didn’t demand any advertising presence on the roller derby girls who skated in the parade.
R: My suggestion has corporate sponsors as well (TD being the main one – it’s everywhere!), but image + nation festival in Montreal showcases LGBTQ-centred independent films.
A: I’m pretty sure that corporate sponsorship is here to stay, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is unclear. Why not tell us in the comments how your corporate-sponsored Pride experience was? Oh, and did any one else get green stains on them from the TD Mardi Gras beads?