Paulien Eeckels

Pinkwashing: What Is It and Which Brands Are Not Guilty

In June we celebrate that summer is around the corner, the birthday of Kanye West, but most importantly every member of the LGBTQ+ community. In this month most Prides are held. We would 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 still in front 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 have increased. And so has the attention of brands. But what are the motives of these companies? And what the fuck is “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.

Simply put, brands that are guilty of pinkwashing have a double agenda. They support the community during June, without including the community, giving back and don’t care about their rights during the rest of the year. And that’s just not how it works.

Which brands do it right?

Luckily for the world, there are some brands that 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 June and thus are not guilty of pinkwashing.


It’s a known fact that MAC Cosmetics and the LGBTQ+ community have a long history together. Frank Toskan, co-founder of MAC Cosmetics, has always done things differently with his company by not participating in the unrealistic standards, animal testing and exclusiveness. As for their support for the LBGTQ+ community, they go way back. MAC Cosmetics hired RuPaul to be the first face of MAC and VIVA Glam. And ever since, they stayed true to their slogan “All ages, all races, all sexes”. Another great example is their collaboration with Patrick Starrr. Honestly, we could write a whole article of what MAC Cosmetics does to support the community, so we can assure you, this company is not guilty of pinkwashing!

With MAC Cosmetic’s Viva Glam lipstick, they have long supported the community. Now, they also have a #MACLOVESPRIDE collection, that includes blush, glitter, lipstick, eyeshadow and more! Everything fitting for Pride, of course. This summer MAC supports more than 20 American Pride events, including L.A. Pride and WorldPride NYC, and is launching PSAs with LGBT celebs like singer Troye Sivan and Drag Race winner Aquaria. Above all, the company is donating $500,000 to GLAAD over the next two years in honor of Viva Glam’s 25th anniversary.




Levi’s’ history with the LGBTQ+ community also goes way back, both for their staff as 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 they support the LGBTQ+ community every year with their Pride collection and participation in Pride events around the globe.

For their 2019 collection they will also continue its longstanding support to the LGBTQ+ community by partnering with OutRight Action International. An organization that has been working for three decades to improve the rights of LGBTQ+ people all over the world. This year OutRight Action International will receive 100% (!!) of the net proceeds of the Levi’s Pride collection.


Nike annually celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with its BETRUE collection. The first collection of this range came out in 2012. Back then it started as a grassroots effort led by Nike employees in the Pride network, seeking to build a community diverse in orientation, identity and expression focussing on community initiatives to advance equality in sport. And ever since, we’re all following the BETRUE collections created and managed by Nike designers in the LGBTQ+ community.

For their 2019 BETRUE collection they partnered with the Gilbert Baker Estate (the creator of the Rainbow Flag). For the first time, the footwear, apparel and accessories all feature the icon’s original eight-color flag, as well as other meaningful “Gilbert-y” touches and symbols of Pride.

Besides their annual release of this collection (June), they support the community year-round.


Nike BETRUE 2019 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.

Disclaimer: these brands are of course not the only brands that do a great job, but just keep in mind when shopping your pride-look, some brands are just interested in your wallet. While so many people in the community can use that money so badly.

Photo credits: Levis,  MAC Cosmetics and Nike

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