Pride Month 2021 has arrived, and large brands are gearing up to cash in on the rainbow. Businesses have realized that LGBTQI+ people have bought products in the previous decade. In truth, we make a lot of purchases. Enough things have happened that companies have realized it may be worthwhile to try to appeal to us so that we will start buying their products as well. Rainbow Washing was born as a result.
June is bursting at the seams with rainbows, and it’s dividing views on what’s proper for businesses selling Pride-themed merchandise.
What is rainbow washing?
Throughout June, companies that participate in rainbow washing will be transformed into colorful centers, with brilliant rainbow replicas of their logo appearing on social media. Local members of the LGBTQI+ community may be “highlighted” in their advertising and feeds, with them wearing their seasonal “Pride” gear or other corporate apparel without paying (or underpaying) the gay talent involved. To capture your eye and draw you into their establishments, they might use rainbow flag colors in their advertising. Or they can make a passing reference to queer organizations they support without producing receipts to verify it. Then, on the first of July, BAM arrives, and everything returns to normal as they walk away with your hard-earned queer money.
Some companies have been accused of profiting from LGBTQ+ items and “jumping on the rainbow capitalism bandwagon,” underlining the need for groups to be honest, and authentic to their campaigns and the support they provide now more than ever. Apple, for example, has released a new version of its Apple Watch that features the rainbow flag’s colors. Many believed that this was indicating that proceeds from the product will go to change-making programs backed by the ILGA, The Trevor Project, and the youth charity GLSENhttps://www.glsen.org/. Marks & Spencer launched the “Pride limited-edition LGBT sandwich” in 2019, which drew much condemnation on social media despite its seemingly good intentions. The Albert Kennedy Trust, which defended the promotion at the time, said, “AKT is happy to have the backing of brands like Marks and Spencer, as, without it, we couldn’t accomplish what we do,” however other comments from the general public focused on the product, trivializing a critical effort.
Could it be that, rather than a genuine movement in business ethics, we’re still seeing corporate “rainbow-washing”? Are firms working 365 days a year to educate, support, and address the job they need to do?
Why Is It Damaging?
The commercialization and monetization of the Pride flag (a flag that symbolizes the Queer community’s long history of resistance to oppression and strife) has diluted Pride as an event. In the opinion of some, Pride has become more about business partnerships, sponsorships, and celebrity appearances than it has about amplifying queer voices and raising awareness for LGBTQI+ problems. It’s also harmful because it causes well-intentioned people to believe they’re helping the LGBTQI+ community when, in reality, they’re lining the pockets of multibillion-dollar corporations.
Savvy, younger, and more queer-identifying customers are beginning to enter the market, having grown up with more acceptance and representation than prior generations. As their underlying values and activities are scrutinized more closely, corporations may be forced to review the effectiveness of their pride events. Corporate Pride floats or logos are frequently only for show, but they can also be hypocritical. With the rising awareness, rainbow washing is slowly starting to die out, but big companies still use June or pride month to increase their sales. This is simply an insult to the queer community and all that they fight for.