For far too long, queer people and other minorities have been sidelined for white heteronormative culture. But now more than ever, more and more people are starting to identify and coming into their own gender ad sexual identity. Gen Z, which I am part of, is one of the queerest generations yet, according to Gallup poll, nearly 1 in 6 people aged 18 to 23 identifies as trans or queer, and this is not because we are being brainwashed as the conservative like to put it, but rather because we are allowed to be ourselves in public. However, because of this, more and more companies are starting to see us as a target demography, and this created something that most of us in the community have called rainbow washing.
What is rainbow washing?
It is a term that has gained traction on social media and is still quite new but is defined as adding rainbow or queer imagery to clothes, advertisements, or landmarks to give a semblance of inclusivity and is telltale signs of wokeness and support for the queer community. However, doing the bare minimum to avoid seems problematic to their majority straight viewership and customer and is usually mostly done during pride month. Rainbow washing is a money grab and is a way for companies to coo-opt queer culture to make a profit and act as if they are progressive when they are not. In layman’s terms, when a company wants to profit during pride month, it is a way to suggest that they support queer people while making money by using them.
As stated earlier, most companies will dabble in rainbow washing during June because it is pride month, and the rest of the year, you won’t hear them utter a single word about queer issues. They will drop the pride flag here and there and have a pride collection to attract a specific demographic queer people and will do so get the hard-earned money of queer people.
Why does it matter?
You might ask yourself, why does it matter? Why am I getting heated over such a trivial matter? To quote Kourtney Kardashian: “Kim, there’s people that are dying.” This is exactly why; queer people are dying because hate crimes have increased, and those same companies that deckle the halls with rainbows during pride month don’t say a word about this. According to a 2019 study conducted by Forbes, queer adults have a combined buying power of a whopping 3.7 trillion dollars, and this is what economists famously refer to as pink money. And let’s be honest, I’ve fallen in the fool’s trap that is rainbow washing once or twice before because I like buying queer stuff, but most of these companies couldn’t be bothered by queer bodies outside of their money.
What does it look like?
This last pride month, it became absolutely difficult to see companies that actually support queer people and companies that see us as a money grab like Disney or Chick-filet. One company that has been a queer advocate is absolute vodka, and they are one of my favorite brands out there; you can see that they actually care about their queer clientele and don’t only care about us during pride. Here are some red flags that might be an indication of rainbow washing:
- Changes its logo only for pride month
- Doesn’t donate to queer causes or is a known advocate for anti-LGBTQIA+ laws when its not pride month
- Foster an unsafe environment for queer staff
- Having corporate groups marching during pride
- Launches pride initiatives
- Makes empty gestures
- Runs a pride campaign while also financing other anti-queer public figures or organizations
- Underpay their queer talent
- Uses rainbow to push forward products
- Use queer staff as props
How is it damaging?
Many people, most of our straight allies and detractors, forget that pride was originally a riot where we fought to have our voice be heard. Because of rainbow washing, pride is more and more turning into a commercial thing, and we are losing its original soul and why we started to march. It is essential to know where we started from and why we march during pride month; we can’t forget our contemporaries and those who came before us. Pride has become a trillion-dollar industry, and we forget the essence of pride; this is why I believe that big companies should not be allowed to march during pride. Because they dilute the every issue we are fighting for. If you want to buy queer items and collectible, then support queer-owned businesses and stop buying clothes from fast fashion brands. Uplift queer voices and artists because now more than ever, we need to stand up for each other and be each other greatest advocate.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us your thoughts on rainbow washing.