Pride month is approaching fast, we are almost halfway through 2022 and this is the time where we will start to see organisation change their logos on social media to include the ‘rainbow’ and put out statements of support for Queer and LGBTQIA+ people – we see it every year, but do we stop to consider if it is authentic or simply ‘pinkwashing’
Pinkwashing is a term used to describe when companies or corporations use support for causes related to the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Pride month, to distract from or improve their public image, rather than actually support the community.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as making donations to charities or sponsoring Pride events, but not ensuring that the people or organisations that these donations support are actually LGBTQIA+ friendly.
First, it can give a false sense of support for the community to those who are unfamiliar with these companies’ practices. This means that they may be less likely to critically examine the actions of these companies, and may be more easily swayed by their marketing efforts.
Second, pinkwashing perpetuates harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community. It suggests that supporting causes related to LGBTQIA+ people is simply a PR exercise for companies, rather than a genuine desire to support marginalised communities. This can have negative consequences for the community, such as contributing to the idea that LGBTQIA+ people are not truly equal or worthy of respect.
Finally, pinkwashing can actually be harmful to organisations that genuinely support the LGBTQIA+ community. When businesses engage in pinkwashing instead of investing real resources into supporting these communities, it means that much-needed donations and support are diverted away from those who could truly benefit from it.
Ultimately, pinkwashing is problematic because it allows companies to exploit the struggles and experiences of marginalised communities for their own gain, without putting in any real effort to support these groups.
Until we put an end to this practice, companies will continue to exploit the LGBTQIA+ community for their own benefit, while the community itself continues to suffer.
However, having said that, I also recognise the challenge staff networks or employee resource groups have trying to persuade corporate marketing and comms teams to take a risk and promote support for the queer community. It can be problematic for them in territories around the world that still criminalise being Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Transgender. Employee safety is a major a consideration for multinational organisations.
My challenge to you is to be authentic – be led by your internal pride colleagues and make meaning statements that are backed up by sustained support and change.
LGBTQIA+ people are for life, not just Pride month!
Joanne Lockwood (she/her), SEE Change Happen
Joanne Lockwood is an Inclusion and Belonging Specialist with SEE Change Happen and works with organisations throughout the UK, Europe and Elsewhere – speaking, training, and consulting.
She can be reached via https://seechangehappen.co.uk