Commentary: About Those Rainbow-Infused Social Media Icons…

This Pride month has seen some interesting perspectives from within and outside the LGBTQ community. On one hand, we should be celebrating…right? On the other, there is some backlash about one thing or another.

While some communities are celebrating on the month commemorating the Stonewall Riots of 1969 – the real powder keg that projected the LGBTQ Liberation Movement into orbit worldwide, others are on hold. Plans are in effect for a July, August, September, even October Pride festival or some sort of celebration. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our schedules have been thrown around to accommodate the lightening of guidelines as more people are getting vaccinated. 

Still, corporate social media icons have been bursting with rainbows or all sorts. Sports team are welcoming fans back to their stadiums with Pride Nights. The advertising pivot continues with their welcome to the LGBTQ community, as they have with all other cultural and gender celebration months.

Therefore, I am witnessing the backlash – and it is downright uncomfortable. 

On one side are those who were upset that LGBTQ folks exist, and their favorite brands have taken to bursting into rainbows. This is nothing new, since I have seen anti-LGBTQ hate for most of my life. Some directly at me. 

On the other side of those within the LGBTQ community who have a problem with companies who burst out in rainbows, but they have a track record of supporting organizations who do not like our existence. They scream “hypocrisy” at every turn and yell at us to support our own rather than “them.”

The common thread between these two flavors of backlash – social media. Rather, the use – and abuse – of social media. 

I have witnessed this tug-o-war in the automotive and travel industry too many times. In the past, you have threats of boycotts because a company took a stand for in the name of corporate responsibility. In the end, the companies won. Consumers also won, since they continued to shop these brands and businesses without adhering to this form of economic bullying. 

Social media has evolved into an instant way for intentional – and unintentional – bullies to impose their views upon the general public. In turn, you have trolls trying to argue with other trolls over “facts” and who’s right or wrong. There were moments when these message strings among opposing trolls was like watching for the umpteenth time a “fight” between drag queens on any given season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

You also might react to those who vote through reaction emoticons – especially ones for "haha," "sad," or "anger" – that express their feelings over a company's rainbow-infused icon or posts that affirm their policy of inclusion.

Your eyes are glued to your devices for every dramatic turn, as a live soap opera has unfolded on apps and websites that were designed to connect people than divide them. In addition, you will have commentators putting more gasoline on top of the social media fire. In the world of YouTube, they’re called “drama channels.”

You want to know my take on all of this? 

Corporate responsibility and citizenship in the automotive industry – in particular, engaging with the LGBTQ community within and outside of their facilities – has been my “beat” since before renaming this site as Victory & Reseda. For almost twenty years, I have seen how this industry evolved in their thinking regarding embracing LGBTQ consumers to their brand towards owner loyalty, while ensuring that their employees are offered benefits and a great workplace towards long-term retention at their workplace. 

When I discuss the automotive industry, I am not just talking about the OEMs. I am including automotive retail, suppliers, component manufacturers, service providers and vendor, repair and maintenance – the whole cycle of this industry.

Since I also do travel content, I must also include every aspect of that industry. After all, they also play a part in that content mix from getting me there to making me feel welcome and secure at my destination. 

It is true when I point out that a lot of people do not see what I witness in these industries. This is an arrogant statement, but from my regular and continuous observations and interactions with these industries. 

Does working this “beat” give me permission to get into a message string, spill facts, and tell everyone to “shut up?” 

I’m not quite sure. I try my best to be neutral, but that’s a tough place to be sometimes. Yet, I end up acquiescing to the power of social media and the implied rights of free speech that it gives its subscribers/members/users towards abusing these privileges. 

Should I fulfill this permission to engage with these stratified voices over something that needs to be fact-checked or explained? Should the social media managers and communications professionals engage to correct or get into these cyber-arguments over what could end up being nothing?

If you defend a company’s strategy towards engaging with LGBTQ consumers and its employees, which troll would you send into high anxiety? How many of the “silent majority” would you send to their therapists? 

Understand that there are policies and procedures in each entity that guide their interactions through social media and beyond. Some companies have a “line” they can distill as a response to any side of the argument. Let them speak their “line.” Your conclusion may vary, but these communications professionals are not really getting paid to argue with you. 

There is something you can do to save your sanity over the trolling on social media: Don’t read the comments. Don't react to the reactions on any given post. If you want to go to the extreme, you can remove an app or block a website. 

How about this option: Support the businesses you want to buy from or work at! Even if they don’t always agree with you, they still want your business or employment. They are investing in you either way. 

As for whether these companies also support organizations and causes that are counter to your own, understand that their corporate responsibility and citizenship strategy is to reflect the wider consumer base rather than to cater to singular demographics. They have marketing budgets where they spend to get the wider audience for their goods. Whether you agree with that or not is up to you. 

If you think I am defending the industry from supporting everyone they can reach, consider this. How many LGBTQ employees of said companies have been fired for being who they are in the past few years or so? How many LGBTQ employees do you know left the company because they were treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

We don’t know. Neither do I. 

All I can say is to let these companies fly the Rainbow Flag to support their employees and provide consumers a choice to utilize their goods and services. Let them support their diverse labor and consumer base, too! Let me do my job to cover this “beat” to see where corporate responsibility is heading to next. 

Let us stop with the divisiveness that continues to cripple this country’s progress. Let us be employees, consumers, and citizens. Just let us celebrate ourselves again. 

All photos by Randy Stern

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.