A rainbow-coloured logo, queer-branded products, and inviting customers to be proud is what a marketing corporation looks like in June.

But do these corporations really invest resources and funding in LGBTQI + associations, initiatives, and efforts? Do they employ queer people and protect their queer workers from discrimination? Are they just for profit, or do they sincerely want to encourage social change?

Rainbow washing is not a significant contribution to the fight for equality, respect, and the rights of LGBTQI + people but profit-driven exploitation of a vulnerable social group.

rainbow washing

What is Rainbow Washing?

As defined by Urban Dictionary, rainbow washing is: “The act of using or adding rainbow colours and/or imagery to the advertising, apparel, accessories, landmark. To indicate progressive support for LGBTQI+ equality (and earn consumer credibility) but with minimum effort or pragmatic result.” So in layman’s terms, rainbow washing is when a business, conglomerate or other for-profit organization uses the rainbow Pride colours to suggest to consumers that they support the LGBTQI+ community without having to put in the actual effort or produce a tangible outcome for queer folk. 

How does rainbow washing harm the LGBTQ + rights movement and contribute to capitalism?

Rainbow washing reduces and simplifies the fight for LGBTQI+ rights, signalling that the production and purchase of products is a sufficient contribution to advocating for the security and equality of queer people and the community.

Rainbow washing provides no insight into the corporation’s internal practices, often only ostensibly presenting itself as progressive, inclusive, and modern without engaging in community support.

The goal is to attract customers to increase sales and earnings, not initiate social change. As a result, the queer community is being exploited, and corporations are profiting.

How do avoid and recognize rainbow washing?

Companies should be a safe space for LGBTQI+ people. This means no discrimination in employment. Regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as enabling professional advancement and reacting to homophobia, transphobia, or any other discrimination by employees, benches, and clients.

The fight for LGBTQI+ rights should be supported by donations and participation in queer rights initiatives.

Marketing and corporate practices should be focused on LGBTQI+ people throughout the year, not just during Pride Month.

Ridiculous LGBTQI+ branded products for Pride Month

M&S sandwich

rainbow washing

Sandwich isn’t doing much on its own to promote the fight for equality, even in rainbow packaging.

The rainbow crisps

rainbow washing

In 2015, Doritos created a limited-edition rainbow crisp in collaboration with It Gets Better Project, an LGBTQI+ non-profit organization, but the original message may have been left far behind.

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