Pride Month and the problem with queer representation in advertisements

Wasanga Mehane is joined by Vega School Master’s graduate and influencer Khangelani Dziba to talk about the representation or misrepresentation of queer people in advertisements.

FILE: We're here, we're queer, and we know what you're desperately trying to achieve. Picture: Rajesh JANTILAL/AFP

June is just a few days away and marks the ushering of Pride Month and do you know what that means? Gay stuff everywhere.

In what almost comes across as a battle of who is the most inclusive brand in world, June is one of the most icky months in the year as a queer person because a lot of it just seems so performative and a blatant exploitation of pink money.

Yes, inclusivity is cool and everything but the only time some of these big brands seem to really care about queer representation in advertisements seems to be whenever some Pride-related event, month or day comes around.

Look, capitalism affects everyone in the world so I'm not surprised that brands take advantage of pink capitalism, particularly in June. The problem, however, lies in how inauthentic it comes across because "Pride" and "inclusivity" are themes only represented on directly queer-focused occasions.

It's all "gay rights!" in June but "queer? I hardly know her" the rest of the year. The queer-bating is not lost on us, I promise you, brands.

The question of what even is queer inclusivity or even queer representation in popular media is a more complex issue that many like to admit.

There's nuance in conversations about inclusivity and positive representation by brands and conglomerates that is often lost in "anti-woke!" discourse primarily fronted by Boomers and misguided millenials.

However, the fact that these conversations are even being had is what is probably the best thing to come out of Pink-exploitation.

Above the odd campaign or two, what is important for brand authenticity in relation to inclusivity and diverse representation is for this energy to be carried around all year.

Not every campaign needs to be queer-centric but it's more than sus when this representation is only carried around once or twice a year at the convenience of "Pride!" motifs.

Two excellent representations of brand who understand their market but do not explicitly exploit them are Savanna and Adidas.

Savanna's new campaign for Savanna Chili being the most camp thing to come from the "dry but you can drink it" brand and Adidas teaming up with queer mastermind Rich Mnisi are recent campaigns that immediately come to mind.

Brands need to go beyond having queer people in the odd campaign and start have queer people not only in the room but in positions power who truly understand and have an active investment in the community and are not just looking to capitalise on pink money.

We're here, we're queer, and we know what you're desperately trying to achieve.

Do better.

It's important for us to start identifying with these various identities that target markets identify with and incorporate them in sexualities that are put forward, but also the advertisements that are planned for because in that way we start to achieve meaningful relationships with consumers over and above just the functional responsibility of advertising.

Khangelani Dziba, Vega School Master’s graduate and influencer

Any brand that wants to work within the community needs to know that we're not a trend, we're not a once-off, and we're not just for show or something that looks cool.

Mandima, Caller

This article first appeared on 702 : Pride Month and the problem with queer representation in advertisements