Pride or Pinkwashing?

For over fifty years, June has evolved into what is now considered Pride Month, a time where the LGBTQIA+ community celebrates their identities while also reflecting on the queer struggle and remembering those who fought along the way. One of the most universal symbols of these festivities is the rainbow-colored Pride flag. In recent years, many companies, organizations, and even governments have joined the celebration, sporting rainbow colors, flying Pride flags, and other initiatives that signify Pride. But these acts of solidarity do not always signify support for groups of marginalized people but rather present a distraction from the mistreatment and abuse of other groups in the present day.

Organizations and governments using queer-related topics, such as Pride Month, as distractions from negative actions is considered a practice known as pinkwashing. Originally, the practice was more commonly observed with breast cancer awareness using the pink ribbon to promote products made by the same companies producing chemical carcinogens. As support for the LGBT community rose, companies quickly traded the ribbon for a rainbow. 

While there are companies who promote Pride products in conjunction with supporting LGBTQIA+ activism, both socially and financially, there are many companies who only seek to profit off of the “pink pound”. Some companies even go as far as donating portions of their profits to anti-LGBT organizations that pose the greatest threat to queer people in modern times.

Governments, both home and abroad, have also been guilty of pinkwashing. Homonationalism, a term created by queer theorist and professor Jasbir Puar, is known as the practice of advocating for and celebrating gay citizens by first-world nations for the benefit of an international image rather than genuine concerns for queer people. 

An example of Homonationalism used by the U. S. would be the use of pro-gay legislation as proof the nation is superior to traditionally anti-LGBT middle eastern countries involved in conflict with the United States. Israel has also been known to use this tactic, marketing Tel Aviv as the “Gay-Capital of the Middle East” in an attempt to mask the human rights violations made against Palestinians in occupied territories. Homonationalism not only objectifies gay citizens as P.R. tokens but also delegitimizes the thousands of queer people in countries where acceptance is not as available in other nations.  

As June is less than two weeks away, pinkwashing will reach a seasonal peak by all who participate in the deceptive practice. The success of pinkwashing depends on the complicit ignorance of those who consume these products and campaigns without first questioning them. Instead of looking away or assuming you know a company or country’s stance on LGBTQIA+ issues, take five minutes to research their true intentions. Simple investigating can help pull back the curtain on the exploitation of queer people during a month created to celebrate them.

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