Pinkwashing

Paulien Eeckels

Pinkwashing: What Is It and Which Brands Are Not Guilty?

In June we celebrate that summer is around the corner, but most importantly every member of the LGBTQ+ community. In this month, most Pride Parades are held. We’d be surprised if you don’t know what that is, but if you need a little refresher: Pride is a worldwide celebration of both LGBTQ+ individuals and the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. It is about looking back at where the community came from while looking to the present and future to recognize the road ahead of us.

The first Pride ever took place around the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. Annual reminders began in 1965 and took place each July 4 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It’s no secret the popularity of these Prides has increased. And so has the attention of brands. But what are the motives of these companies? And what the fuck is “pinkwashing”?

Pinkwashing

Pinkwashing, also called queer-baiting, is very similar to greenwashing. But this time it’s about “supporting” the LGBTQ+ community. Lately, almost every brand has brought out its own LGBTQ+ (clothing) line. We can only applaud brands publicly supporting and creating awareness around this community, but what’s the use of it when the community only exists during June?

Creating a rainbow-inspired collection is, unfortunately, not enough. Especially since everyone knows that supporting diversity sells. So, the motives sometimes are just money. And that is a problem. You cannot support such a vulnerable community, sell products for them and in their name, and not give (money) back. Another problem is excluding LGBTQ+ people in the process. For example, excluding them to design and promote the collection.

In short: Pinkwashing is a brand reaping the benefits of selling diversity without actually doing the legwork to better the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. The brands don’t work with LGBTQ+ creatives, don’t fund LGBTQ+ projects and organizations, and it pretends the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t exist the rest of the year. And that’s just not how it works.

Pinkwashing what is it and which brands are not guilty?

Which brands do it right?

Luckily for the world, some brands truly understand the meaning behind the Pride movement. We could expose some of the brands that are guilty of pinkwashing, but we decided to spread positivity instead. So we’ve listed some of the brands for whom the people of the LGBTQ+ community exist in other months than just June and thus are not guilty of pinkwashing.

MAC

It’s a known fact that MAC Cosmetics and the LGBTQ+ community have a long history together. Frank Toskan, the co-founder of MAC Cosmetics, has always done things differently with his company by not participating in unrealistic standards, animal testing, and exclusiveness. As for their support for the LBGTQ+ community, they go way back.

MAC Cosmetics launched their iconic Viva Glam line in 1994 with the proceeds being donated to help fight HIV/AIDS. Nowadays all proceeds of the line benefit the Mac Viva Glam Fund, which has helped raise $500 million worldwide. Not to mention, they hired the infamous RuPaul to be the first face of MAC and Viva Glam. And ever since, they have stayed true to their slogan, “All ages, all races, all sexes”. Honestly, we could write a whole article about what MAC Cosmetics does to support the community. So rest assured this company is not guilty of pinkwashing!

Pinkwashing

#MACLOVESPRIDE collection

Levi’s

Levi’s’ history with the LGBTQ+ community also goes way back, both for their staff and for their customers. They were the first Fortune 500-company ever (1992) that offered advantages to same-sex partners. Jen Sey, SVP & CMO, Global Brands at Levi Strauss & Co is still very proud that Levi’s supports the LGBTQ+ community every year with their Pride collection and participation in Pride events around the globe.

For their 2021 Pride collection, Levi’s is focussing on respecting people’s pronouns with their All Pronouns All Love collection. Not to mention that in support of their Pride collections, Levi’s makes an annual donation to OutRight Action International. It’s a non-profit organization that has been working year-round at the international, regional, and national levels to research, document, defend and advance human rights for LGBTQ+ people all over the world.

Pinkwashing what is it and which brands are not guilty?

The jean jacket of Levi's Pride collection 2021 "All Pronouns All Love"

Converse

For the sixth year now, Converse will be releasing its Pride collection This time the brand worked with five LGBTQ+ creatives from its global community to each create their unique Converse Pride shoe. The collection includes a rework of the Chuck 70, Chuck Taylor All Star, Run Star Hike, new slides, and T-shirts. There’s even a new “All Star” patch inspired by the LGBTQ+ flags. Additionally, you can also make your own customized Converse made out of the new Pride collection materials

Converse reported having donated more than $1.3 million to LGBTQ+ organizations in the past six years. And this year the company will fund the It Gets Better Project, supporting the project’s education initiatives on TikTok and Twitch to empower young LGBTQ+ people as well as the annual grants that go to Ali Forney Center, BAGLY, and OUT MetroWest.

Pinkwashing what is it and which brands are not guilty?

One of the unique Pride Converse of the 2021 Pride collection

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s is not only a delicious ice cream, but they also have a long and proud history of commitment to social justice, including LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality. More so, this commitment is grounded in the company’s core values. They stand for equal civil rights for everyone. Over the past couple of years, Ben & Jerry’s has supported the LGBTQ+ community in multiple ways.

Even way back in 1989, Ben & Jerry’s was the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same-sex couples: it was the only right and fair thing to do in their eyes. They do not bring out a special LGBTQ+ flavor or packaging or whatsoever in favor of the LGBTQ+ month, so there is no question of pinkwashing. They do support Pride and other LGBTQ+ movements in various ways.

Pinkwashing what is it and which brands are not guilty?

Disclaimer

These are not the only brands that support the LGBTQ+ community but rather a first look at famous brands that support the LGBTQ+ community. However, it’s important to directly support smaller LGBTQ+-owned brands as well, so don’t be afraid to check out your local queer-owned businesses!

Pinkwashing what is it and which brands are not guilty?

Photo credits: Levis, Jason Leung, MAC, Converse, Ben & Jerry’s, and Jiroe

Co-written by Mira Van Lierop

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