Pride month marketing sparks backlash amidst ‘Rainbow Washing’ claims

PHOTO: Unsplash/William Fonteneau

The marketing strategies utilised by companies throughout Pride Month have sparked criticism from LGBTQ+ rights advocates who accuse businesses of merely capitalising on Pride-themed merchandise but not backing the call for equal rights in real terms. This can refer to as “Rainbow Washing.”

Nikki Phinyapincha, founder of TransTalents Consulting Group, claims that these businesses just incorporated Pride Month, which is observed in June, into their advertising campaigns – a move she terms “rainbow washing,” reported Bangkok Post. These companies use rainbow flags, logos and even social media hashtags to boost their merchandise sales, she said. Some have even gone to the extent of creating special Pride Month edition products to increase profit.

According to Phinyapincha, such actions sidestep the real purpose of Pride Month.

“They transform us into merely a source of income. Pride was not merely a celebration, but a commemoration of our fight not only for civil rights but also for socio-economic inclusion and empowerment such as equal rights to employment, promotions and access to education. These rights are crucial as they enhance our living conditions.”

Nikki called out the business sector, urging them to match their seeming support for the LGBTQ+ community with tangible action. She urged businesses to establish a safe work environment for LGBTQ+ folks and to offer them mental health support. Expressing identity freely could increase their productivity and relieve the fear of being who they are, she added.

Nikki also emphasised equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community in advancing their careers. Several businesses still harbour the view that an LGBTQ+ person in a leadership role could discredit the business’s professionalism and reliability. Yet, incorporating LGBTQ+ people in executive roles can assist businesses in driving systemic change, she argued.

“If corporations seek money from us, please make sure to give back by listening to what we need and what we fight for.”

Nada Chaiyajit, a lawyer and human rights consultant, highlighted how “rainbow washing” also permeates politics. Certain political parties use pro-LGBTQ+ campaigns to amass votes from the community. However, she noted that parties like Move Forward Party (MFP) have displayed genuine support by drafting a marriage equality bill amending Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The bill, introduced by the MFP, aims to apply the marriage law to all couples, universally. Moreover, the party supports Thailand’s bid to host World Pride in 2028 to propagate equality.

Nada also stressed the necessity for change at the national level, with politicians ensuring LGBTQ+ friendly welfare schemes that cover paid gender affirmation leave, equal pay, and civil-servant programmes that extend to their partners. Including a minimum quota for LGBTQ+ and women politicians in parliament, she argued, would help diversify the parliament as they would have a chance to voice their concerns.

Reflecting on the May 14 General Election result where five openly LGBTQ+ MPs from the MFP were elected, she deemed a gender quota necessary.

“We require representatives who truly comprehend our needs. We want several political representatives from our community to vote for bills that are critical for us.”

Nada appealed to the new government to consider the gender issue upon appointing ministerial positions to promote gender inclusivity. The struggle, she opined, is not restricted to a one-month-long campaign but stretches to every moment of their lives.

“We need people like us in parliament to ensure our voices are heard and protected equally.”

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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