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Target’s cheeky Pride collection strikes again


May 20, 2023

As queer Americans face a historic onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation, a normalization of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric from right-wing politicians, and a spate of violent attacks, Target’s standout message for Pride Month is simple: » Live, laugh, lesbian.»

The crop mantra graces a pink crop top that is part of the global retailer’s latest Pride collection. Other noteworthy items include a coffee mug that reads «gender fluid”; rainbow costumes for pets; to Drag queen bird decorative figure; to monkey that simply says «GAY» in massive letters; a tote bag with the image of a woman looking into the distance and a text that reads «Busy thinking about girls»; and a graphic tee featuring an illustration of a skeleton flexing its wrist and saying, «He…you know?»

While many major brands will launch similar Pride-themed products in the coming weeks, few are likely to be able to compete with Target for generating online conversation leading up to and during the month of June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month.

“It’s kind of a universal theme, it doesn’t matter if the tide is high or low, we all have to react to Target and Pride,” said Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, a firm specializing in LGBTQ marketing.

Over the past three years, more than 960 TikTok videos, including 100 in the last 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 outpaced comparable searches for the names of direct competitors Amazon and Walmart before and during the month of June, according to Google Trends.

The huge online reaction to this year’s collection drew both delight and blank stares among LGBTQ Americans.

«I’m torn between whether the ‘Live Laugh Lesbian’ T-shirt from the Target Pride collection is the best or the worst T-shirt ever,» said drag artist Chiffon Dior. wrote on Twitter Thursday. «I don’t think there is a middle ground.»

Popular lesbian Instagram account @godimsuchadyke posted a meme featuring the T-shirt, writing below the photo: «This is not sponsored but could be @target.»

Queer activist Matt Bernstein posted a video on TikTok, which has amassed more than 6.4 million views since it was posted last week, checking out various of the collection’s products.

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

A Target representative did not respond to requests for comment.

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

For example, Seattle Pride, a nonprofit group that has organized the annual Seattle Pride march since 1974, cut ties with Amazon last year, citing the Seattle-based company’s donations to «anti-LGBTQ politicians.» and his fundraising efforts on behalf of the anti-LGBTQ. groups

While most of the country’s major Pride parades are sponsored by some of the world’s biggest companies, some activists have recently rejected the involvement of corporate America—and dollars—outright. 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 newest event, known as the Queer Liberation March, rejects the involvement of corporations and the police.

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

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

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

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

Don Caldwell, editor-in-chief of know your memea website that documents Internet phenomena, agreed.

“People get a little suspicious when corporations try to embrace social justice or activism in a new way,” Caldwell said. “And I think doing things like a ‘Live Laugh Lesbian’ T-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 goes a long way. . shape.»

Caldwell added, «It could be called ‘cringe’ or whatever, but I think a lot of people find it endearing and a little cute.»

Target’s great selection of fun Pride merchandise comes amid a turbulent time for LGBTQ rights in the nation. More than 480 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Unionwith lawmakers enacting laws to restrict education on LGBTQ issues in schools, drag performances, and access to gender-affirming care, among other provisions.

Matt Wagner, vice president of customer relations for 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 a result of their acceptance of the LGBTQ community amid political confusion.

“If I’m in Kansas, or I’m in Louisiana, or I’m in Florida or Alabama, and there’s not an LGBTQ center in my town or a gay bar, there are very few ways for you to connect physically for the community. For that person to walk into a Target and see a Pride collection, I would suggest, is very moving,” Wagner said. “The fact that this great American company, which can do whatever it wants, chooses to embrace the community in that way could have a halo effect on the emotion that people have.”

Not all the attention surrounding Target’s Pride merchandise has been positive. Conservative activists have had a particular problem with the clothing in the children’s collection, and a «suitable for foldsAdult swimsuit. Children’s clothing items contain supportive slogans, including “just be you” and “trans people will always be around!”

Matt Walsh, host of the right-wing Daily Wire news program «The Matt Walsh Show» urged listeners of 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, don’t want the rainbow stuff spewed at them the moment they walk into a store,” Walsh. saying. “They especially don’t want that to happen when they bring their kids with them to the store like so many parents do.”

Gays Against Groomers, a far-right group that describes 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 a mass boycott of Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light beer brand after it launched a social media partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney last month.

“We urge you to take your business elsewhere. They are being indoctrinated and groomed with LGBTQ ideology,» the group said of Target in a statement. cheep which was viewed more than 1.3 million times. «It’s very inappropriate and disturbing.»

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

“Even if I never got caught dead buying all this stuff, I would say it’s a success because the brand is well known for it,” Witeck said.