Rainbow Washing: How Corporations Bank on Pride Month for Consumer Credibility

Rainbow Washing: How Corporations Bank on Pride Month for Consumer Credibility

This Pride Month, we recognize a colorful crime disguised as allyship



This Pride Month, we're looking at rainbow washing, which is “the act of using or adding rainbow colors and/or imagery to the advertising, apparel, accessories, landmarks, etc., to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ equality (and earn consumer credibility)—but with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result,” according to the Urban Dictionary.


As hundreds of brands celebrate one of the most prevalent themes of June, we’re taking a deep look into corporate offenses and how they take advantage of Pride Month.


Corporations turn every opportunity into profit, and Pride Month seems to be their favorite prey. As stores shift from seasonal themes to rainbow extravagances, many of us celebrate and purchase what we think is supportive of a festive occasion. Little do we know, some of these brands do not support the LGBTQIA+ community behind-the-curtain. It’s easy to put up a flag and call yourself an ally, but it’s time for us to look at the receipts.


Why does it matter? The LGBTQIA+ community has a buying power that accumulates about $3.7 trillion for Pride merch. It’s an ever-growing number driven by these large corporations that will do anything to gain customer loyalty. But what happens if these corporations aren’t actually who they say they are? Well then, Houston, we have a problem.


Behind Closed Doors

There are many factors at play in terms of what support means for brands that house LGBTQIA+ employees and communities. Companies may be subject to rainbow washing if they go all out for Pride Month but underpay queer talent or foster an unsafe workplace for LGBTQIA+ staff members.


Richard Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters, was called out for anti-gay operations in 2015 for donating a hefty amount to homophobic politician Rick Santorum. The story was pulled after bashers, including Miley Cyrus, went after the company on Twitter. How come there are not enough articles about this incident? No one really knows. And yes, it is sketchy.


Ever since the scandal, UO has been eerily quiet during Pride Month; no posts and no loud merchandise marketing. Their website unveils their support of GLSEN, an organization dedicated to protecting LGBTQIA+ students. However, customers can only participate in select stores, and it’s limited to June alone. Could this be a pity ploy to cover up their past mistakes? Possibly. It’s disappointing that a brand that generates products for today’s youth contributes to the hatred that its consumers face.


Sometimes, we aren’t aware of what goes on behind-the-scenes. Digging up the brand’s background and current values is the best way not to fall victim to rainbow washing. Most brands will enumerate a list of foundations they support on their website. If the brand is not transparent enough to indicate its causes or workplace legislation, it’s best to avoid them. Secondly, if the brand does not support the queer community all year round, they most likely take advantage of Pride Month for profit.


RELATED: “Allyship Is a Verb” and Other Lessons on Becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally


Brands That Did It Right

Pride Month has progressed over the years, and advertisements have become more about celebrity appearances and flouncy commercials that are eye-catching, but not necessarily raising awareness. Despite the negative side of Pride Month’s rainbow washing incidents, some brands market their products with an authentic purpose.


Here is a list of brands that genuinely celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community:



Diesel partnered with Tom of Finland Foundation for its Alltogether Pride capsule collection. The collection incorporates erotic artworks reimagined by a series of contemporary artists.



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A post shared by Diesel (@diesel)



The LGBT Pride Collection features an array of assorted products as well as diverse models. Levi’s makes an annual donation to Outright Action International, advancing human rights for the LGBTIQ community.  



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A post shared by Levi's (@levis)


RELATED: Matches Made in Musical Heaven: A Peek Into Reese Lansangan’s Levi’s Music Project Mentorship Journey



Coach’s Pride Collection is the largest one yet. The rainbow-themed aesthetic is combined with some of their most iconic items. The brand continues to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights by supporting ACLU, and partnering with the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Point Foundation and CenterLink Community.



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A post shared by Coach (@coach)



Converse Pride allows you to customize your Chuck Taylors featuring the rainbow gradient. The assortment includes a variety of patterns, laces, logos, stitching and more. Converse has partnered with seven organizations and has collaborated with over 50 young creatives for a new campaign called “Found Family.



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A post shared by Converse (@converse)


MAC Cosmetics

MAC’s special edition Viva Glam X Keith Haring collection gives back 100% to local organizations supporting women, the LGBTQIA+ community and people with HIV/AIDS.



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A post shared by M·A·C Cosmetics (@maccosmetics)


RELATED: Backhanded Comments LGBTQIA+ People Are Sick of Hearing


It’s important to note that allyship is more than a decorative gesture. Companies fronting their support also need to provide proof of concrete action. A little background check before purchasing rainbow products could help instead of hurt the community we all know and love.



Words Marga Sibug

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver


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