The term pinkwashing is modelled on the term whitewashing, used to describe how non-white people are ignored and replaced with white people, particularly in film and TV. Pinkwashing refers to the use of LGBTQI+ symbols and terminology without referencing the community. The corporate aspect of this appears when large corporations and business use such symbols, terminology and events to make profits. Examples of this corporate pinkwashing are seen in our clothes shops with a range of emblazoned rainbows, while being made in countries where queer people regularly have to hide their identity. Anyone who has participated in a pride march recently will have noticed the wide variety of companies who use pride as part of their marketing and PR campaigns, many of which support extremely anti-LGBTQI+ administrations around the globe.
In 2018, Irish clothing chain, Primark, launched a ‘Pride’ line in collaboration with Stonewall, UK LGBT campaign and lobbying group. The premise of this collaboration was a 20% donation of profits made from the sales of the products to be donated to Stonewall UK. Both organisations have faced criticism over the range, the clothes are made in Turkey, China and Myanmar, none of which have even a slightly positive history of LGBTQI+ being respected.
Istanbul pride has faced constant opposition by government and police forces. This year police used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the gathering of 1000 people brave enough to come out and demand their rights. The Chinese government run a very powerful anti-LGBTQI censorship campaign which includes banning Eurovision from TV and Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Call Me by your Name’ was banned from the Beijing Film Festival despite winning a BAFTA and an Academy Award. China’s history of silencing minorities from the Uyghur muslim community to the pro-democracy student protesters in Hong Kong is no hidden phenomena, unfortunately the chinese LGBTQI+ is just another minority which the west will not support. Myanmar’s record of treatment for the queer community takes is a step even further, while same-sex relationships remain illegal and punishable with a jail sentence and police use their penal code to harass and assault the trans community on a nightly basis. Sexual assaults on lesbian women are a societal norm as it is believed to ‘cure’ them of their queerness.
So next pride season when you visit a local clothes shop to buy your glittered, rainbow or rhinestone pride attire, please spare a thought for your queer siblings facing persecution for you to wear a t-shirt to show how progressive your politics are.
In recent years it seems that Pride has become nothing more than a mass advertising venture for all sorts of business’, from Telecommunication companies to Supermarkets to Banks to Weapons Manufacturers. At this years Glasgow Pride BAE Systems turned up with a banner stating ‘Proud of who we are. Proud of what we do’. For those who don’t know of BAE Systems, they are a weapons manufacturer with two bases on the Clyde. BAE build the Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets which are used by Saudi Arabia in their bombing campaign on Yemen. There are several reasons why a company such as BAE Systems should be challenged in their participation in pride: firstly, they are participating in mass genocide in Yemen, not just participating, they are profiteering from the murder of humans. A community with such a brutal and bloody history such as ours we should not be supporting this disaster capitalism. Second, Saudi Arabia has possibly the worst record on LGBTQI+ human rights, being queer is not only illegal but it punishable by death. Should they be ‘Proud of who they are’? Yes, of course, anyone in the queer community will attest to the difficulty many of us have with realising who we are. Should they be ‘Proud of what they do’? Considering that what they do is fuel a nation that kills their own queers to kill as many people as they can in another nation, categorically no.
From the stonewall riots in 1970s New York, Pride has changed throughout the world. As acceptance grows in the western world and discussions on gender and sexuality make it onto mainstream TV we must utilise Pride to keep moving forward. When our First Minister can speak at Pride we should appreciate the progress we’ve made but not forget that the police arrested trans activists while partaking in a peaceful protest in 2017 in Glasgow just hours before Nicola Sturgeon's speech behind the barriers in the Pride ‘festival’. What is the future of Pride; should we be fighting for our rights or should we be an unpaid walking advertisement for our industrial owners?