Rainbow Washing 101: Why Pride Goes Beyond Putting A Rainbow Sticker On A Product

What Pride really is meant for.

It has been said before, and it will be said again. Pride was, is, and will continue to be a protest.

Related: 6 Ways On How You Can Be A Good Straight Ally This Pride (And Beyond)

By now, you’ve probably heard about what went down at the Pride Festival in Quezon City. Billed as the largest Pride event in the Philippines, the protest, march, and gathering was sadly canceled due to harsh weather conditions. It’s an unfortunate outcome, but one made even worse by the stories that came out of the event. From non-allies attending solely to see specific artists, questionable speakers and sponsors, actual members of the LGBTQIA+ community who marched that day barred from entering QC Circle, and more, it shows us yet again one of the constant stains of Pride: rainbow washing.


For decades, June has been celebrated as Pride Month. Every June, the LGBTQIA+ community is celebrated, supported, and championed as the community and their allies continuously fight for their rights. And, as Pride continues to be more accepted by a wider audience, we see companies and major corporations show their support. How though can be the questionable part. 


Their “outreach” normally manifests in LGBTQIA+ marketing such as Pride-themed collections, changing their logos to feature the rainbow flag, and incorporating more LGBTQIA+ lingo in captions. It’s made worse when these efforts to commercialize Pride rely on stereotypes that just reinforce prejudices against the community. This consumer-focused mindset to celebrate Pride brings with it its fair share of downsides, known commonly as rainbow washing. 

On one hand, companies holding Pride campaigns puts more visibility to the community. But on the other, they can become superficial efforts that have no real impact on supporting the community. It builds a fake image that brands are supportive while still implementing harmful policies that discriminate against the community. This performativity of co-opting Pride and LGBTQIA+ culture by brands and companies might seem like a sign of progressive values, but it often boils down to surface-level support meant to turn a profit. Ironically, monetizing Pride in the name of supporting the community is the exact opposite of what Pride is supposed to be. 


Pride marches began in earnest with the Stonewall Riots as the queer community in New York fought back against police that were harassing their few safe spaces in the city. In the Philippines, the first Pride marches in the country happened in the early 90s, from lesbian Filipinas who marched during International Women’s Day in 1992 to MCC Manila and ProGay Philippines organizing their own march in 1994.

Corporate Pride takes away from Pride as a protest against discrimination, harassment, and oppression and for queer liberation. Just look at how the US Embassy had a speaking slot at the QC Pride event even though justice has yet to be achieved for the killing of Jennifer Laude. Capitalist interests distract from the needs of an already marginalized community as the reason why we celebrate Pride in the first place gets lost.

Yes, it’s not inherently wrong for Pride to be celebrated in bigger ways. Also, not all corporations support Pride just for a quick check and have genuine interests behind them. The struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community are also struggles of the common man, after all. Allies who genuinely understand the plight of the community is always a bonus. But as we see time and time again, a marginalized community entering the mainstream means they lose their story in the first place. Pride should never be reduced to rainbow collections, brand deals, sponsorships, and performative actions of support that just take advantage of consumers. It should continue to be a protest that spotlights and amplifies queer individuals, voices, advocacies, and stories. 


Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way forever. As consumers, we can vote with our wallets and show support to brands and companies that have authentic and genuine outreach to the LGBTQIA+ community. As for brands themselves, allyship and solidarity go beyond slapping a rainbow sticker on a shirt. Put your money where your mouth is and support the LGBTQIA+ community, organizations, advocacies, and marginalized sectors. What the community needs is acceptance and the right to be free to be themselves without judgment, and that extends to external AND internal decisions in the company. That is what it means to genuinely support the community. 

Continue Reading: This Is Your Reminder That Pride Is Way More Than Just Splashing The Rainbow On Everything Else