What happens when you have an agenda, then someone bigger and more powerful than you offers to help, but actually they end up shutting you out of the causes and communities you love? As it becomes more and more acceptable to be queer in society, capitalist entities are moving to cash in on the ‘queer dollar’. As discrimination decreases, so rises the access that tolerably (read: unobtrusively or non-confrontationally) queer people have to traditionally heteronormative jobs, in turn increasing their purchasing power.
Pinkwashing is a term used to describe the co-opting of queer rhetoric for marketing purposes—using ‘queer-friendliness’ as a tool, ostensibly to show acceptance, but with the actual goal of selling more product. The GAYTM’s that crop up for a few weeks every now and then are a prime example of pinkwashing in NZ. On a larger scale, we see pinkwashing when international companies happily flaunt their rainbow advertising and self-proclaimed inclusivity, but continue to discriminate against and exploit workers, sponsor homophobic events, and make their products in homophobic countries. They show off their pretty queer-friendly face, while simultaneously turning their back on the queer bodies they profit from.
Pinkwashing is a common focus of queer political discourse, as its assimilationist* and homonormative** pretence undermines all that is often traditionally held as queer. By privileging the white, gay, upper/middle class, cis, male dollar, commodification of queer marginalises those who fall outside the desired normative consumptive practices of our capitalist society. This reinforcement of idealised queer is directly harmful to that portion of the queer population who refuse, or are unable, to embody it. Consumers do not create, and equating spending power with social acceptance is problematic for any and all stigmatized minority groups.
If we preach egalitarianism***, not only do we need to start practicing it we need to engage that egalitarianism on all fronts. Civil rights are economic rights.
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* The notion that queer people should try to blend in or assimilate into ‘normal’ heterosexual society.
** The privileging of ‘normal’ queers—cis, white, gay or lesbian, monogamous, upper/middle class etc.
*** Favouring equality of fundamental worth and social status for all people.