Rainbow-washing can take on many different forms
If you’re a consumer of pretty much any kind of media, you’ve almost certainly seen examples of rainbow-washing, which include:
- Brands slapping rainbows on their social media accounts for June
- Releasing limited-edition Pride merch with little or no information about whether any portion of profits are going toward organizations that benefit the community
- Using LGBTQIA+ employees as props in Pride-related marketing materials
- Being shady about how they’re giving back to the community all year round, not just in June
- Hiring queer creators for Pride projects and underpaying them (or not paying them at all).
That last one is particularly egregious, with brands expecting free labor for their Pride content from queer creators, many of whom—like writer, podcaster, critic and consultant Fran Tirado on Instagram—have opened up about hearing how there’s little no budget for Pride projects. (Often with the sugarcoated excuse that they’ll instead be paid in “exposure,” which does not pay bills and is exploitative and condescending.)
Corporate Pride waters down the idea of Pride in general
While it wasn’t the first time members of the LGBTQ+ community were harassed by the police, the Stonewall Riots are widely considered to have created Pride as we know it today. In late June of 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in lower Manhattan. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents, leading to six days of protests and bloody clashes with law enforcement. The point is that Pride had violent beginnings and throwing a rainbow sheen over your multibillion-dollar company for 30 days a year without putting your money where your mouth is is ignoring history. And no, no one is saying Pride has to be an entirely somber remembrance of the past—it’s a celebration, after all—but it’s a cheap marketing ploy to pay homage to the queer community without actually doing anything to benefit it.
Rainbow-washing allows corporations to distract from their anti-LGBTQ+ practices
Another huge issue with rainbow-washing is that it can distract from a company’s shady track records on LGBTQ+ issues. Last June, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), highlighted the contradictory practices of a number of major corporations on her Twitter.