More Than Just A Rainbow: A Guide To Rainbow-Washing & Celebrating Pride Respectfully

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely noticed the candy-colored hues decorating social media profiles in celebration of Pride Month. You’ve also likely noticed that this year, perhaps more so than ever before, brands, businesses, and corporate entities are joining (and cashing) in on the LGBTQ+ festivities.

Here’s why not all of the rainbow-washed logos and merch you’ve seen across the web function as the best examples of allyship and supporting a worthy cause.

What Is Pride?

In June 1969, an uprising took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in protest of the harassment and persecution of queer people at the hands of the police. These individuals who refused to back down and face discrimination for their sexuality are who we have to thank for the beginning of a crucial movement: overturning discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ+ people.

In the tradition of monumental equality events occurring in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark civil rights case, was decided in June of 2015. The result: same-sex couples were guaranteed the right to marry under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

Stonewall & Obergefell were both groundbreaking moments in United States history-events both recognized and honored today for turning the tides towards sexual equality. It’s the reason why people today can celebrate proudly and freely, both in June and all year long.

It is, however, easy to get lost in the fun and excitement of pride and lose touch with the real reasons why we celebrate…making way for a shallow marketing practice commonly referred to as “rainbow-washing.”

What Is Rainbow-Washing?

Rainbow-washing (also called pink-washing or rainbow capitalism) occurs when a brand, business, or corporate entity decides to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community by emblazoning their visual presence or products with rainbows and other symbols of allyship-while, for the rest of the year, completely ignoring the existence of the same community they claim to support.

In some cases, it’s even worse than that: these “allies” don’t simply ignore the community, but show support for other businesses and figures that stand in the way of LGBTQ+ awareness and acceptance.

How Is Rainbow-Washing Detrimental?

At the same time, rainbow-washing is more than just a means of poking fun at how out of touch brands can be, and actually hints at underlying problems and prejudices that, as a society, we still have a lot of work to do to overcome.

Rainbow-washing trivializes the Pride celebrations

Brands can profit from Pride Month-without sharing that success with the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful way

It popularizes performative allyship over genuine support

What Can Brands Do To Celebrate Pride The Right Way?

Learn the history before speaking up

Listen & amplify queer voices

Donate to the cause

It’s vital that businesses today have the confidence to speak up about the important social issues that affect the people they’re marketing to-but it’s also crucial that it’s done in a way that’s thoughtful, well-researched, and authentic.

That’s no easy task, but we’re happy to help support your efforts in any way we can! Learn more about our social media counseling program here or get in touch with our team to chat about navigating the road ahead together.

Written by Megan O’Keefe | Social media & Content Specialist at Altos

Originally published at on June 15, 2021.

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