An aerial shot of a Target store.

Why Target’s Decision to Cave to Bigots on Pride Merch Is So Dangerous

Anti-LGBTQ+ bigots have set their sights on Target after the company rolled out a new Pride collection ahead of Pride month. It didn’t take long for conservatives to hit the internet and begin calling for a boycott of Target. False claims that Target made tuck-friendly swimwear for children were used to try to raise the hysteria, even though a Target spokesperson confirmed that the tuck-friendly swimwear was only offered in adult sizes. However, the mere fact that Target is offering trans-friendly swimwear and Pride-themed furnishings, trinkets, and clothing has been enough to spark an intense backlash from the right-wing community.

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The disturbing reactions to Target’s Pride collection mirror the backlash that Nike and Bud Light faced recently for partnering with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. These companies faced vitriol campaigns on social media, calls for boycotts, and threats, and even had their protesters buying their products just so that they could destroy them in bizarre ways. While Nike stood by its collaboration with Mulvaney, Bud Light released a disappointing statement tiptoeing around the issue of conservatives threatening to bomb their factories and seemingly apologizing for “dividing” people by acknowledging that the LGBTQ+ community exists.

With Target now also facing intense backlash, scrutiny, and threats from bigots, it was just a matter of time before the company was forced to respond. Unfortunately, the retailer’s disappointing response was to cave to the bigots by removing some items from its Pride collection.

Target caves to bigots over Pride collection

Even before Pride month could start, Target began removing items from its Pride collection. As soon as backlash arose, reports from insiders swirled alleging that Target held “emergency meetings” over the response and that individual stores were choosing to hide their Pride collections and move them away from the front of stores. However, Target has now officially confirmed that they are making adjustments to their collections in the face of backlash. A company spokesperson released a statement Tuesday on behalf of the company that read:

For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.

According to Reuters, the products that have been immediately removed are those from the LGBTQ+ brand Abprallen. The company is run by trans designer Erik Carnell, whom conservatives have accused of being a “Satanist” because a small number of his designs included “tongue-in-cheek” references to Satan. Meanwhile, many other products, including trans-friendly swimwear, are reportedly under review at Target.

Why Target needs to stop caving to right-wing bigots

In its statement, Target explained that the threats to stores and workers had prompted the Pride collection review and removals. The spokesperson described both online threats and physical threats, as bigots are allegedly coming into Target stores to confront employees and throw Pride collection items on the ground. At least one video has circulated on social media showing a man throwing a Pride collection display on the floor and stomping in it while spewing something about “devil worshippers.” The man in the video appears to be Ethan Schmidt, an anti-LGBTQ bigot, and troll who has threatened to “hunt” members of the LGBTQ community in Target stores.

These reactions are deeply unsettling but also show quite clearly why companies like Target and Bud Light need to stop bending to the demands of bigots or those who may more appropriately be labeled domestic terrorists. People who are threatening harm to the LGBTQ+ community should not be given a victory to encourage them to continue their outrageous behaviors and threats to get what they want. Those who are explicitly threatening Target stores don’t just want the store to remove their Pride products, they truly want to get rid of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and any mention or reminder of their existence.

Target absolutely should take action against these threats to protect their stores—by taking legal action and pressing vandalism and harassment charges against these agitators, not by agreeing to the demands of this minority extremist group. Caving to a few extreme bigots runs the risk of encouraging them in their unhinged behaviors, validates their hate, and also runs the risk of losing the support of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

(featured image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.