Megacorporations don’t care about their queer employees or their queer customers, and Target is the latest major company to make that painfully clear.
They just care about their money. After Kid Rock decided to set fire to a few cases of Bud Light with an automatic rifle in protest at the brand’s sponsorship of Dylan Mulvaney, the company decided to turn around and do damage control rather than stick with its decision. Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Anheuser-Busch said, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people…our business is to bring people together over a pint.”
Unfortunately, Whitworth and numerous other CEOs claim they are unaware of the fact that this anti-trans action is not part of a reasonable “discussion” in this country. It is simply targeted hatred, and yes, the issues “divide” many Americans, but by pretending not to “pick sides,” Anheuser-Busch has tacitly bowed to that hatred.
Target employees see their company doing the same.
In response to widespread conservative backlash against Traget’s Pride line of merchandise, the company has ordered much of its clothing removed from shelves. While the company claims that this decision was made because of threats of violence against Target employees, it’s likely that falling stock prices were the primary cause. Experts have warned that Target’s actions will only embolden violent extremists, who will see the brand’s decision as proof that threats of violence work. Still, many stores have turned their backs on selling Pride merchandise, leaving many items of clothing in the dumpsters.
The majority of Target employees were heartbroken at the brand’s lack of support for the LGBTQ community, and many threads on Target employee subreddits are expressions of grief. In a thread titled “Pride Fiasco 2023,” both queer and straight Target employees have come together to bemoan the retailer’s decision to discontinue Pride merchandise and to share their experiences in their respective stores to report.
One employee was told her team would spend the day “pulling all the pride out of the store floor and putting it at the back,” having already been instructed to remove the merchandise items from the main displays and place them in “Women’s Show.” ” to place. The employee claims that he was “lied to” and forced to “lie to their team that this was about selling swimwear in the first place.” It is likely that the employee is referring to the swimsuits, which are suitable for adults and caused outrage after conservatives claimed the suits were being marketed to children. The employee ended his post by warning the company about “claims.”[ing] ally just to choose money just like everyone else.”
Other discouraged Target employees were quick to respond. “It drives me nuts that people think most companies even care,” said one user following the original post. “For them, Pride month is just free advertising and money, they really don’t care. It’s just about looking good and people fall in love with it.”
Another user pointed out that while the company’s motivations for selling Pride merchandise are ultimately self-serving, “it’s a bloody big deal when you can walk into a store and see a celebration in your honor. “It’s so, so important that it just gets normalized.”
Another user was quick to slam the brand’s claim that threats of violence against employees were the main reason the company discontinued Pride merchandise, bullshit. “If Target were actually concerned about our safety for even a split second, they would step up security; Bring in more security people, develop a system so that the openers and closers (or, frankly, everyone all day) always go in and out together, someone is watching them from inside the building, walking to their cars or walk away from them, etc.”
That’s a valid point. If the target is indeed engaging in violence against queer employees, rather than removing all traces of their identity from stores, why not take steps to protect those employees? “They’d rather appease people who probably never shopped at Target,” the post continued. “How about making violent fanatics comfortable at Target to protect team members from the violent fanatics?”
If Target had decided to take concrete action against bigotry, they wouldn’t have been the first company to do so. The North Face responded to their customers’ anti-Pride reaction by hiring drag queen Pattie Gonia as the face of their latest ad campaign. “The North Face has always believed that the outdoors should be a welcoming, equal and safe place for all,” said a company spokesman. “We are honored and grateful to support partners like Pattie Gonia who are helping to make this vision a reality. …Creating community and belonging outdoors is central to our values and is needed now more than ever. We stand with those who support our vision of a more inclusive outdoor industry.’”
While conservative politicians like Majorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebert have called for a boycott of The North Face, the company has remained unabashed in its support of the queer community. Unfortunately, The North Face seems to be the exception to a grim corporate rule. According to a Reddit user in this thread, many HR leaders at Target are heartbroken that the company lacks backbone.
The user said the decision “physically distressed our HR manager.” I spoke to her and the rest of our group on the phone yesterday and watched her cry as we told her how embarrassed and shamed we were to have members of the Target to be teams. I just want anyone reading this to know that it wasn’t the HR team (top to bottom) that really pushed for this, it was the finance team.” The user then named Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, Vice President Michael Fiddelke and Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Katie Boylan as the real culprits behind the decision.
There’s one positive aspect to Target’s decision to pull Pride merchandise from stores, but it’s thin. According to one user, the company is looking to LGBTQ groups to accept donations for the goods it collects, meaning the clothes aren’t going to be wasted entirely. That’s little consolation, though, because I can’t imagine a self-respecting queer being caught dead wearing clothes made by a company that refuses to support the community in its greatest need.
(Selected image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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