Pinkwashing this Pride season

The ugly truth about pinkwashing and how to fight back

HomoCulture Simon Elstad

This article was published on May 26th, 2020

Be warned! Tis’ the season of Pride and brands will be coming at you hard, going after your hard-earned pink dollar. But, not all of them care about you or even the LGBT community they purport to support. It’s all about the money and PR. This is a glimpse into the dubious world of pinkwashing, and how you can fight back and call out dishonest brands.

What is pinkwashing?

Pinkwashing, also known as rainbow-washing, in the LGBT context, is any advertising, marketing, or political strategy aimed at promoting products, services, people, countries, or organizations using gay friendliness, thus being perceived as progressive, tolerant, and supportive of the LGBT agenda.

The term, coined by Breast Cancer Action in 1992 to identify companies that claimed to support breast cancer patients while profiting from their illness, has expanded to describe ingenuine brands and businesses.

Brands, businesses, companies, personalities, rush to splash the rainbow colors on products, and campaigns, while expressing support for the LGBT community. But, when the marches are over, and the cameras gone, you’ll be lucky to hear anything from them.

Brands, businesses, companies, personalities, rush to splash the rainbow colors on products, and campaigns, while expressing support for the LGBT community. But, when the marches are over, and the cameras gone, you’ll be lucky to hear anything from them.

Atlanta Pride Parade 2018

The pink dollar

In the beginning, brands and businesses steered clear of the LGBT community. By then, only LGBT businesses and organizations advertised in gay media.

Then came the 1990’s and the community was touted as the “dream market” made up of urban, educated, dual-income gay and lesbian couples, most without kids, which means high disposable income and a propensity to spend big on luxury items, investments, travel, and personal care. Big business took notice. Since then, and thanks to key milestones in LGBT rights and equality, big brands have come out of the closet, throwing their weight and cash at the LGBT movement.

The only problem is doing it only when it suits them. There’s absolutely no objection to brands having Pride products and campaigns; they just have to be ethical about it. You cannot claim that proceeds from selling rainbow branded products go towards supporting Pride while it’s not the case.

TELUS in the 2017 Vancouver Pride Parade

Calling out pinkwashing this Pride season

So how do you identify, call out, and fight against pinkwashing this Pride season?

Watch out for brands that claim to give proceeds to charities if you buy their product or service. Ask upfront what percentage goes to charity, or the amount of money they give. Making a splashy claim is one thing; action is a whole other different thing.

If the amount is only marginal, it doesn’t make any impact and only serves to drive up sales. Spend your money elsewhere.

Check whether the brand markets year-round or just during Pride. If it’s just during the Pride season, call them out for pinkwashing.

Do they only give free products to an influencer? Pinkwashing alert. Just because a gay influencer appears with a brand’s product doesn’t mean the brand supports Pride or the LGBT community. The commitment isn’t just there. Call. Them. Out.

Watch out, especially for brands that pull their support and budget this year for LGBT events and media outlets. While the economy is pretty bad for everyone, this is still a sign that they aren’t truly committed to the market and community.

Do they have an LGBT page or accreditation on their website or internal colleague programs? These demonstrate their authenticity and commitment to the community.

Gender Neutral Restroom

True Pride support

Pride is about celebrating who we are as individuals and as a community. Here are better ways to show support other than falling for the marketing ploys of clever brands out to take your hard-earned cash in the name of LGBT-solidarity.

Attend and support LGBT events such as the virtual drag shows, DJ’s and dance events. These are the real people in our community that need us now, more than ever, as the pandemic decimates their livelihood.

Buy from and support LGBT owned businesses. They, too, have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, and while they genuinely support Pride in normal times, this year may be tough on them.

Support brands and businesses celebrating Pride this season and throughout the year.

Donate to and volunteer at local Pride and gay charities. With most of their funding gone due to fundraising hiccups thanks to COVID-19, they are struggling and need all the help they can get in protecting the more vulnerable in the community.

Stoli Pride
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