LGBTQ+ rights

[Dash of SAS] Pride, rainbow capitalism, and the resistance

Ana P. Santos

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[Dash of SAS] Pride, rainbow capitalism, and the resistance

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'McDonald’s, on its global website, states their investment in LGBTQ+ awareness, rights, and equity. How does this global policy translate to the Philippine setting?'

In celebration of Pride, McDonald’s recently released an advertisement about women loving women, and it sent off a wave of kilig among netizens, me included. 

The story is centered around two characters, a female skateboader and a woman who works at the McDonald’s drive-through counter. The skateboarder makes several loops through the drive-through lane in seemingly innocent attempts to flirt with the woman working the counter. 

In the end, the woman gives a sundae to the skateboarder, who delivers the ultimate kilig line: “Baka matunaw (It might melt),” also presumably pertaining to how she feels about the gift gesture. The two laugh and walk away together, holding hands. 

The last part about the two holding hands was my pinnacle of kilig. A display of mutual affection between two people of the same gender was normalized instead of muted to suit conventional social palates.

First of all, quick confession. I liked the ad so much because I am a fan of skaterboader and Olympian Margie Didal. Didal made sparks fly as she grinded on rails and other obstacles in the SEA Games and the Tokyo Summer Olympics. 

Didal, who ranks as the 14th best street skateboarder in the world, won the the world over with her spunk and goofy, chill personality, and raised awareness and respect for street skateboarding as a sport. Didal also succeeded in a another win – one much more difficult then swishing through an aerial move: appreciation for expressions of women loving women. 

Secondly, in the space of 30 seconds, McDonald’s opened our minds and hearts to the everyday lives of queer people. 

Rainbow capitalism

The ad also sparked an online debate between netizens who praised the ad because it surfaced the often overlooked experience of women loving women as a normal everyday occurrence (as it should be), and those who called it out as a case of “rainbow capitalism,” or corporations showing solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community through advertising and merchandising without actually supporting the community beyond these displays of consumer consumption.  

There is a valid point made on both sides. 

Stories of love and desire between women/vulva owners loving women/people with vulvas have not been told as often as other stories about queer love and relationships. 

In the Philippines, legislation advancing sexual citizenship or the right to self-determination when it comes to our sexual and intimate lives trudge through the halls of Congress and are dragged down by circuitous debates. 

The debates before the passage of the Reproductive Health Law (RH Law) were endless winding discussions about prescribed morality that preceded evidence-based public health goals. 

In the case of the Divorce Bill, which has yet to be passed, subjective definitons of gender and the make-up of the supposed traditional Filipino family outrank the basic human right to choose who to love and, well, no longer love. 

The SOGIE Bill, which would ban discrimination regarding basic services on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, has been in legislative limbo for the last 23 years. 

But even when laws are passed, as we have seen in the RH Law,  implementation falls to obstacles like lack of funding at the congressional level and the arbitrary prioritization and whims of local officials at the local level. 

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In this context, the role of other “auxiliary” social influencers like movies, art, books, and yes, ads is crucial in shaping the norms of society.

In the space between legislative policies and our everyday life lived out with others is our community.

Our communities – meaning our families, our friends, and our places of work and residence – can enable discrimination or prevent it.

As enablers, they can use shame, exclusion, and derision – or threats of them – as a way of shrinking acceptance for people of different and diverse gender identities and expressions.

As preventors, they can open up old ways of thinking to new ways of seeing and understanding.

The ripples of change in small circles such as communities and classrooms created by inclusivity cannot be discounted. 

However, it is exactly because the change we want can and must also happen in classrooms, work places, and smaller communities, that we need to ask for more than representation. 

For sure, a story told through an ad has the power to help us make sense of the complexities of every day life in a way that the cold and codified language of laws cannot.

Representation as a starting point for inclusivity

Representation is crucial, but it should be a starting point to ask, push for, and advocate for what else is possible and what else should be in place when inclusivity and equality are at the center instead of in the margins. 

Companies who have shown solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community such as McDonald’s, BenchNew Balance, and H&M should be encouraged to extend their solidarity beyond Pride month and extend their solidarity to non-discriminatory hiring, retention, and promotion policies that are based on inclusivity.

McDonald’s, for example, on its global website states their investment in LGBTQ+ awareness, rights, and equity. How does this global policy translate to the Philippine setting?

While the SOGIE Bill passes time in Congress, local anti-discrimination policies in various cities around the country have been passed. It would be interesting to see how these ordinances have been implemented and what progress has been seen so far. 

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LIST: Philippine local governments with anti-discrimination ordinances

LIST: Philippine local governments with anti-discrimination ordinances

Pride started as a riot built on earlier years of activism to protest police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in New York against people of the queer community.

Today, Pride is a celebration and protest. An occasion to applaud progress where it happens and to question why it cannot happen in other places. A reason to resist and persist every day.

In the face of worldwide regression of gender rights such as the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and countries like Indonesia and Uganda passing laws that punish sexuality and its expression, the resistance will need to come from spaces that show that people whose expressions of love, desire, and sexuality are different from conventions of heteronormativity are just like everyone else’s – because they are. 

An activist once said that democracy is like love – we have to make it every day.

I would like to change that up a bit for the Philippine setting. Gender rights are like love. We have to make it – and fight for it – every day. –

Ana P. Santos writes about the intersections of gender, sexuality, and migrant labor rights. She has postgraduate degree in Gender (Sexuality) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

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Ana P. Santos

Ana P. Santos is an investigative journalist who specializes in reporting on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and migrant worker rights.