2SLGBTQ+ Supporters Call ‘Rainbow Washing’ by Corporate Allies

2Slgbtq+ Supporters Call ‘Rainbow Washing’ By Corporate Allies

Toronto-based graphic designer Dylan Horner says many of the marketing campaigns he encounters during Pride month make him cringe.

Throughout the month of June, brand ads featuring LGBT Pride images appeared on televisions, billboards and, most importantly, in social media feeds. Companies ranging from local businesses to multinational corporations launch new Pride-themed products and add splashes of rainbow decor to their logos, all in the name of ally 2SLGBTQ+.

But if a company’s policies, products, and political activities during the other 11 months of the year don’t align with its colorful advertising during Pride month, it’s increasingly likely to be called “rainbow wash” – displays support public files for the 2SLGBTQ+ community that are temporary and not backed up per action.

“When companies try to push their own agenda and include the community, those are the (campaigns) that drive me crazy,” says Horner, who is gay.

But his feelings on the matter are not black and white. He believes there is value in marketing and advertising campaigns during Pride month, especially if there are nuances, noting that visibility is particularly helpful for individuals who live in rural areas, feel alone, or are not yet fully comfortable with who they are. .

Horner is not alone in finding the problem nuanced.

“I think mega-company sponsorships can often be beneficial for queer creators, and financial support in that regard can propel us to the next level,” says drag artist Kendall Gender. “I, however, (have) a problem when (sponsorships are) inauthentic.”

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Gender is working with Canadian cosmetics company Annabelle on a Pride collection and campaign this year. Annabelle says monetary donations will be made to the Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps 2SLGBTQ+ people escape violence and persecution in their home countries.


Marketing industry observers agree that authenticity is important and that Pride Month campaigns can serve a positive purpose, but there needs to be substance behind them.

Scott Knox is the founding president of PrideAM, an organization that works to ensure that 2SLGBTQ+ people are more visible in marketing agencies and that community portrayals in advertising are not one-dimensional.

He finds that Canada’s advertising industry tends to do a better job compared to other markets it has worked in when it comes to ensuring authentic representation of 2SLGBTQ+ and specifically around Pride month.

“In Canada, we are part of the fabric of how brands talk (with consumers) and sell products” all year round, he says.

At the same time, he says large companies need to reflect on whether they truly value the 2SLGBTQ+ community or are just trying to cash in when Pride month rolls around, illustrating his point with the example of a hypothetical company adding rainbows to a branch of its operations. located in Toronto’s Gay Village during Pride month, but not at any other location and at any other time.

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“They are safe in the community space, but are they going to do something in another country, in another city, at a different time of year other than Pride month?” he says.


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Craig Pike, owner of Craig’s Cookies, points to a level of superficiality and lack of understanding on the part of some larger organizations he has encountered. He says they have been coming to his small business, which has a location in Toronto’s Gay Village, to get free cookies for his Gay Pride campaigns instead of paying for them.

“We’ve been approached by banks, hotels and other big food brands asking us to donate cookies for their Pride events,” he says. “In my opinion, if you want to support queer small businesses during Pride, put your money where your mouth is.”

The cookie business makes its own efforts throughout the year by hiring diverse groups of employees who best represent the people it bakes for, ensuring it is always visibly queer, and learning how it can do better for marginalized individuals within the wider 2SLGBTQ+ community.


For larger companies, there are some easy actions that can be implemented at the policy and system level well in advance of Pride month that represent tangible support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, says Feminuity co-founder and CEO Sarah Saska. Femininity helps organizations improve their diversity and inclusion efforts.

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She emphasizes the importance of configuring data collection tools for customers and employees that are not limited to gender and sexuality so that there is a better understanding of who people are and what they need, and to help the company determine if its products are inclusive.

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Another example is around benefits, in particular, working with health and benefits providers to expand insurance to cover gender-affirming medical care for transgender and non-binary people. Making sure dress codes aren’t gender-neutral is another easy starting point, she adds.

This is just a start, of course. Saska says that consulting the 2SLGBTQ+ community to see what other actions are beneficial and whether a company’s plans are really helpful, necessary, or helpful can go a long way.

At the end of the day, Horner believes that being a forward-looking company goes beyond a checklist to satisfy during Pride month.

“Being progressive is a way of being. If you really want to do something, you just do it,” he says.

The post that 2SLGBTQ+ supporters call ‘rainbow washing’ by corporate allies appeared first on CityNews Calgary.

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