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Target’s cheeky Pride collection strikes again


As gay Americans face a historic onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation, a normalization of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric from right-wing politicians, and a wave of violent attacks, Target’s flagship message for the month of pride is simple: “Live Laugh Lesbian”.

The cropped mantra adorns a pink crop top that is part of the global retailer’s latest Pride collection. Other notable items include a coffee mug that says “gender fluid”; rainbow outfits for pets; a decorative Drag Queen Bird figurine; a jumpsuit that simply says “GAY” in massive letters; a tote bag with an image of a woman looking away and the text that reads: “Busy thinking about girls”; and a graphic t-shirt with an illustration of a skeleton bending its wrist and saying, “Does he…you know?”

While many big brands will be launching similar Pride-themed products in the coming weeks, few are likely to rival Target for generating discussion online until June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month. .

“It’s kind of a universal theme, no matter how high or low, we all need to respond to Target and Pride,” said Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, a company specializing in LGBTQ marketing.

Over the past three years, more than 960 TikTok videos — including 100 in the past seven days — have used the “targetpride” hashtag, garnering more than 30 million views for users in the United States, according to TikTok analytics . Over the past three years, search interest for “Target Pride” has exceeded comparable searches for the names of direct competitors Amazon and Walmart before and during June, according to Google Trends.

The great online reaction to this year’s collection has sparked both delight and eye-rolling among LGBTQ Americans.

“I’m torn between thinking that the ‘Live Laugh Lesbian’ shirt from the Target Pride collection is the best or the worst shirt ever,” slurred performer Chiffon Dior wrote on Twitter THURSDAY. “I don’t think there’s a middle ground.”

Popular lesbian Instagram account @godimsuchadyke posted a meme featuring the shirt and captioned the photo, “It’s not sponsored but it could be @target.”

Queer activist Matt Bernstein posted a video on TikTok – which has racked up more than 6.4 million views since it was posted last week – reviewing several products from the collection.

“Now I know a lot of people don’t go like this, but I love it,” Bernstein said, referring to the “Live Laugh Lesbian” crop top. “The fact that it’s written ‘Live Laugh Lesbian’ in the iconic live laugh love font – its irony comes full circle. It’s high camp. I want it on everything.”

A representative for Target did not respond to requests for comment.

The attention to Target’s Pride collection comes as the broader response to corporate Pride Month efforts has soured in recent years. Critics often accuse the companies’ pledge to the LGBTQ community in June of being false or superficial, citing seemingly contradictory political donations to conservative lawmakers trying to curtail LGBTQ rights.

For example, Seattle Pride, a nonprofit group that has organized the annual Seattle Pride March since 1974, severed ties with Amazon last year, citing the Seattle-based company’s donations to “anti- LGBTQ” and his fundraising efforts on behalf of anti-LGBTQ people. groups.

While most of the nation’s major pride parades are sponsored by some of the world’s biggest corporations, some activists have recently shunned the involvement of corporate America — and dollars — altogether. A group of LGBTQ organizers in New York City, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, launched an alternative pride march in 2019 to counter the city’s official parade, which has a long list of corporate sponsors. The new event, known as the Queer Liberation March, rejects corporate and police participation.

And with more companies launching Pride Month ad campaigns and selling Pride merchandise, there have been some missteps. Last year, for example, food delivery services Postmates and Burger King received backlash for launching what some thought were overly sexualized Pride campaigns.

Target itself has also been accused by some of leaning into “rainbow capitalism,” a term used to describe the commodification of the LGBTQ community, particularly for its 2021 Pride collection. LGBTQ designers for its Pride collection last year, saying it wanted to “authentically celebrate the community,” according to a company press release. Target continued to partner with queer designers for its collection this year.

Witeck suggests that Target’s Pride collection has become an annual hit — at least in terms of social media chatter — because the brand leans into what he called a “love-hate” dynamic between business and community. LGBTQ with a sense of humor.

“These are things people wouldn’t say, let alone wear,” Witeck said, referring to the collection’s graphic tees. “It gets to the point where it’s so ridiculous that it begs to be worn just to make a joke of it.”

Don Caldwell, editor of Know Your Meme, a website that documents Internet phenomena, agrees.

“People are a little suspicious any time companies try to embrace social justice or activism in a new way,” Caldwell said. “And I think doing things like a ‘Live, Laugh, Lesbian’ shirt, or something like that, is trying to show support for something, but also trying to show a sense of humor about it , which I think lasts a long time. path.”

Caldwell added, “It could be called ‘Grinding’ or whatever, but I think a lot of people find it endearing and kind of cute.”

Target’s wide selection of fun Pride merchandise comes at a turbulent time for LGBTQ rights in the country. More than 480 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, with lawmakers enacting laws to restrict education about LGBTQ issues in schools, make dragging performance and access to gender-affirming care, among others. provisions.

Matt Wagner, vice president of customer relations at Target 10, an LGBTQ marketing company – which is not affiliated with retailer Target – argued that the mostly positive online response to Target’s Pride collection could be the result membership in the LGBTQ community in a political context. turmoil.

“If I’m in Kansas, or Louisiana, or Florida, or Alabama, and there isn’t an LGBTQ center in my town or a gay bar, there are very few ways for you to connect physically to the community. For that person to walk into a target and see a Pride collection, I would say, is very emotional,” Wagner said. “The fact that this great American company, which can kind of do what it wants, choosing to embrace the community in this way could kind of have a halo effect on people’s excitement.”

Not all of the attention to Target’s Pride merchandise has been positive. Tory activists took particular issue with the collection’s clothing for children and a ‘tuck-friendly’ swimsuit for adults. Children’s clothing items feature slogans of support, including “Just be you” and “Trans people will always exist!” »

Matt Walsh, host of right-wing Daily Wire’s “The Matt Walsh Show” urged listeners to his podcast to boycott the brand, accusing Target of “trying to recruit kids into the LGBT camp.”

“There are millions and millions and millions of Americans in this country who are disgusted by this, who don’t want, they don’t want to be spewed rainbow stuff all over the place the moment they walk into a store,” Walsh said. said. “They especially don’t want that to happen when they bring their kids into the store with them, like so many parents do.”

Gays Against Groomers, a far-right group describing itself as an “organization of gays against the sexualization, indoctrination and medicalization of children”, said on Twitter that the company “deserves the Bud Light treatment”. Conservative activists began boycotting Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light brand of beer en masse after it launched a social media partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney last month.

“We invite you to take your business elsewhere. They indoctrinate and groom them with LGBTQ ideology,” the group said of Target in a Tweeter viewed over 1.3 million times. “This is highly inappropriate and disturbing.”

Good or bad, Witeck called the online reactions to Target’s Pride collection “remarkable.”

“While I will never be caught buying all of this, I would say it’s a hit because the brand is well known for it,” Witeck said.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.