Graphic by Lea Rivel ’22
AT&T. StateFarm. Fedex. Amazon. Xfinity. Comcast. These well-known companies all have something in common: their use of rainbow “pro-gay” advertising during June, while donating millions to anti-gay politicians year round.
This pattern, as well as many other actions by businesses and individuals during June, LGBTQ+ pride month, presents a problem called “rainbow washing.” This process leads to capitalization on their own LGBTQ+ centered products, dismissing the true intent behind June, which is to highlight the struggle of LGBTQ+ individuals and to celebrate queerness.
Rainbow washing is when a business or organization uses rainbow colors and marketing during pride month to suggest to consumers that they support the LGBTQ+ community, without having to put in actual effort or produce a tangible outcome for queer people.
According to Forbes, AT&T, UPS, Home Depot, General Electric, FedEx, UBS, Verizon and Pfizer donated a combined total of $14,891,413 to anti-gay politicians. This is harmful enough on its own. When paired with the seemingly pro-LGBTQ+ statements many of these companies have put out via social media or media statements, it’s even more dangerous. Consumers are put under the impression that these companies are looking out for them and are in support of their identities, when in reality, the companies are financially supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
A survey by Harris Interactive found “approximately two-thirds of LGBT adults, or roughly 66%, would be very or somewhat likely to remain loyal to a company or brand they believed to be supportive of the LGBT community, even when less-supportive competitors offered lower prices or greater convenience.”
This means money from LGBTQ+ consumers, even if indirectly, is going towards keeping in power the leaders that are against their own interests, and oftentimes, civil rights. Systems such as this continue to make substantial capital during June without consumers even realizing it.
Companies showing up when it’s convenient and profitable is not true allyship. Especially when behind all the rainbow colors and social media posts for pride, those same companies donate to politicians actively trying to harm the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s unethical and dangerous to the climates and communities in which they exist.
This doesn’t just apply to major corporations. Rainbow washing on a more minor level can be dangerous as well. When individuals post rainbows and graphics on social media for pride month, but have anti-queer prejudices in their private lives, it makes it seem as though societal progress is being made, when in reality, it might not be in that particular realm.
Pride is something LGBTQ+ individuals have all year, and it’s unfair and unethical of companies to claim to support the community for one month while donating against their interests the other 11.
This pride month, we must remember that allyship doesn’t expire come July 1.