Pinkwashing: How Corporations Take Gay Money and Give It to Homophobes

Pinkwashing: How Corporations Take Gay Money and Give It to Homophobes

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You may have heard the term “pinkwashing” before — but what is pinkwashing? In a nutshell, many major corporations court a queer audience with inclusive marketing campaigns while quietly supporting an anti-LGBTQ agenda behind the scenes.

What is pinkwashing?

The term “pinkwashing” started as a way to describe companies that use the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon campaign to distract the public from the harm their products cause to women. For example, Think Before You Pink pointed out auto manufacturers who used breast cancer awareness to promote their cars that release carcinogenic exhaust.

Since then, the word “pinkwashing” has been thrown at any entity that employs watered-down feminism in order to exploit women. One example is Thinx panties, which used feminist rhetoric to sell their products but turned out to have serious problems with labor rights and sexual harassment in the workplace.

But women aren’t the only group targeted by faux wokeness. Many corporations use pinkwashing on LGBTQ customers, too.

LGBTQ Pinkwashing

The Daily Dot brings up the example of Bank of America. The bank is considered strongly queer-inclusive, sponsoring floats at pride parades and criticizing North Carolina for HB2.

But the company has been sued for anti-LGBTQ discrimination by customers and employees. One former worker said her boss harassed her for being a lesbian. And a same-sex couple in Florida sued the bank for denying them a mortgage for being unmarried — even though same-sex marriage wasn’t yet legal in that state at the time.

And beyond that, many corporations bring harm to the LGBTQ community by giving large donations to queerphobic right-wing politicians.

For instance, Google celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage by putting little rainbow-colored banners at the top of search results pages. But the company gave $500,000 to the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Facebook let users put a rainbow-colored filter over their profile pictures in 2015 to support marriage equality. But the company gave $1 million to the RNC.

And, though Apple supported the Equality Act of 2015 to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the company’s gay CEO still gave $45,900 to a fund to reelect Paul Ryan and other anti-LGBTQ Republicans to Congress, Buzzfeed notes.

Coca-Cola ran that gay-friendly ad with the sexy pool boy a while back, but it still donated to Trump and Pence’s inaugural committee and to last year’s GOP convention.

This is by no means a complete list. Look at almost any company with pro-LGBTQ ads. Most of them donate to the GOP.

Is pinkwashing a problem?

Some people think that pinkwashing isn’t necessarily bad. It’s a sign that the LGBTQ community has made immense progress. Once treated like pariahs, now queer people are just another demographic to be pandered to by companies.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to sell things to a particular audience. That’s just sensible marketing.

But there is something wrong with taking queer people’s money and giving it to anti-LGBTQ politicians. And that’s what many companies do: they drape themselves in rainbow flags to get queer customers to reach for their wallets, then they donate the profits to right-wing politicians who vote against LGBTQ rights.

Because, in the end, giant multinational corporations exist only to make a profit, not to promote human rights. They pander to an LGBTQ audience because they want queer people’s money. That’s all.

They’re not your allies. Don’t buy it.

What is your least favorite example of pinkwashing? Let us know in the comments!

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