Beware of Pinkwashing Brands This Pride Season

The concept of pinkwashing involves companies using Pride Month as a marketing opportunity without genuinely supporting the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year.

HomoCulture Gay Culture Brian Webb

This article was published on May 30th, 2023

As the vibrant month of June rolls around, companies across various industries gear up to release a plethora of products adorned with rainbow flags and slogans in celebration of Pride month. Commonly referred to as “pinkwashing” or “rainbow washing,” it has garnered increasing attention and criticism from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. The concept of pinkwashing involves companies using Pride month as a marketing opportunity without genuinely supporting the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year. While it may be nice to see representation in a popular department store everyone shops at, it’s not without its negative implications. And it’s less sincere than you think. 

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Authentic support 

Pride holds deep historical significance as it commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which marked a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. However, many companies fail to recognize that support for the community should extend beyond a single month. The authentic celebration of Pride involves a commitment to promoting inclusivity, equality, and respect throughout the year, both within and outside of corporate structures. True support would show in the significant contributions made to various LGBTQ+ organizations, particularly from profits made from Pride merchandise. If nothing else, ensuring that anyone employed by these companies gets the respect and dignity in the workplace that they deserve. This includes company policies dedicated to diversity, equality, and inclusion to protect the rights of all employees, plus health care benefits for specific needs, such as trans health resources. 

Marketing matters

There’s nothing more cringy than out-of-touch corporations trying to cash in on in-jokes or gay terms. (Looking at your “bottom-friendly” menu, Postmates.) It might be funny at first, but the more one thinks about it, the weirder it gets. Whether it was for shock value or trying to be cute, it was clear that it was just pandering for the attention it received. Instead, they should pay LGBTQ+ personalities, drag queens, influencers, etc., and it should work with the product lines that are already offered. It shouldn’t, in the process, ostracize its heterosexual audience either and inevitably cause a mass outcry. For example, BudLight, who seemingly reeled back from that sponsorship and got really quiet once people started pouring beer down the sink instead of standing by Mulvany when she started getting harassed.

Be cautious 

As it stands, this rainbow-print support is seemingly shallow and only lasts for the month of June. Honestly, it’s a bit shorter than that, as about halfway through the month, everything already starts heading out to the bargain bins as the merchandise is eventually reset for the next retail season. It may sound jaded, but this is the reality of corporate pinkwashing or rainbow-washing. While it may be at least reassuring that your supermarket of choice doesn’t blatantly hold anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, it might be best to skip the rainbow-painted aisle this year. However tempting it may be, especially for those who have recently come out and are eager to express their identity with confidence and pick up every flag print in sight. We as a community should do our best to only support businesses that actually care about the LGBTQ+ community for the whole year, not just during the month of June when it’s trendy and “ok” to do so.

Support LGBTQ owned and operated businesses 

We would like to strongly encourage you to support small businesses and spending your pride money on fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community! Not only does your money go directly back into the community, but purchasing from small businesses or individuals online means that merchandise will always be available all year! You won’t have to wait for one month out of the whole year to get a little pin with your flag of choice. Waiting for it to come in the mail sounds better than a whole year anyway! 

Pinkwashing, rainbow washing, or whichever term you use, doesn’t do as much good as they may want you to think. It’s nothing more than a “cash grab” because brands know that the LGBTQ+ community typically has a higher disposable income, compared to their heterosexual counterparts. If they truly cared to show support, it would show in where they put the profits from the products sold and how they treat their LGBTQ+ employees. Be sure to support your local community members this Pride month, and all throughout the year!

Share your experiences

Have you seen or experienced a brand that has been blatantly pink washing this Pride season? We want to hear about it. Share your experience in the comments below.

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