Pinkwashing (LGBT)

Pinkwashing is a portmanteau compound word of the words pink and whitewashing. In the context of LGBT and intersex rights, it is used to describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed at promoting a product or an entity through an appeal to queer-friendliness, primarily by political or social activists. The phrase was originally coined by Breast Cancer Action to identify companies that claimed to support people with breast cancer while actually profiting from their illness.


In 2013, the Human Rights Campaign officially endorsed comprehensive immigration reform and committed to helping immigrants as they seek health and safety, asylum or citizenship.[1] The endorsement came days after an incident where a queer immigrant activist was prevented by HRC from discussing their legal status at a Supreme Court rally, mistreatment for which HRC later issued an apology.[2] The Huffington Post described the HRC's actions as pinkwashing, "making immigration reform look pro-gay to garner LGBT support in order to mask the severe drawbacks of the legislation" – drawbacks such as funding to support enforcement, deportation, and further U.S. militarization.[3]

In 2012, Jason Kenney, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister, was accused of pinkwashing after an email titled "LGBT Refugees from Iran" was sent to thousands of Canadians. The message contained additional recent comments by John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, about Canada's stand against the persecution and marginalization of gays and lesbian and women around the world. A group of activists claimed that it "is a poor attempt at 'pinkwashing' the Conservative government's obvious desire to encourage war with Iran."[4]

Israeli government public relations

Anarcho-queer collective Mashpritzot hold a "die-in" protest against Israeli pinkwashing and the perceived homonormative priorities of the LGBT support centre in Tel Aviv.

Sarah Schulman, a writer and professor at the City University of New York, claims Israeli government public relations campaign exploits the idea of Israel being LGBT-friendly to promote public perception of Israel as a "modern democracy", a "safe and secured place for investment", and a "tourist destination with the sun and the sand".[5] In August 2011, The Jerusalem Post reported the Foreign Ministry was promoting Gay Israel as part of its campaigns to counter the negative stereotypes that many liberal Americans and Europeans have of Israel.[6] Critics of Israel like Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, cite the Israeli government's comparison of LGBT+ rights in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories as an example of pinkwashing. Citing WorldPride, which Jerusalem hosted in 2006, she wrote: "Within global gay and lesbian organising circuits, to be gay friendly is to be modern, cosmopolitan, developed, first-world, global north, and, most significantly, democratic."[7] Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, has written that the Israeli government "insist[s] on advertising and exaggerating its recent record on LGBT rights ... to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people."[8][9]

Others assert that pinkwashing allegations against Israel constitute a straw man argument, arguing that Israel's embrace of the LGBT community has never been used to justify or excuse the Israeli occupation of Palestine, stating bluntly that the fact that Israel is generally tolerant towards LGBT individuals and groups on both state and individual levels is a factual contrast to the discriminatory and often-brutal treatment given to LGBT'ers by Arab and Muslim groups.[10] Ido Aharoni, former head of the Brand Israel project, responded to such criticism saying: "We are not trying to hide the conflict but broaden the conversation. We want to create a sense of relevance with other communities."[8] Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor and a frequent defender of Israel, has said that the term pinkwashing is used against Israel by "some radical gay activists" who are antisemitic "bigots."[11] He called the use of the term pinkwashing in this context as "nothing more than anti-Semitism with a pink face."[12][13]

Yair Qedar, a gay Israeli filmmaker and civil rights activist, has said that Israel has a praiseworthy LGBT+ rights record and that failing to defend it "ultimately serves homophobia far more than dialogue and peace". He criticized Israeli LGBT+ groups for failing to oppose pinkwashing charges.[8] Shaul Ganon of the Israeli based LGBT+ rights group Aguda, assessed the dispute this way: "Each side is trying to gain some points. The truth is the only one who gets screwed by this is the Palestinian gays."[14]

Corporate marketing

A campaign to develop public support for the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil through the United States, has been accused of pinkwashing for its argument that the project deserves support based on a comparison of Canada's record on LGBT rights compared to that of other oil-producing nations.[15] The campaign base at headlines its presentation: "Compare Canadian Ethical Oil to OPEC conflict oil".[16]

In 2014, BP launched "LGBT Careers Event", a move that was met with criticism as an attempt to pinkwash the conduct that led to Deepwater Horizon oil spill, described as "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced".[17]

In Australia, concern has been raised about the commodification of gay rights by major corporations.[18]

Anti-Islamic activists

A coalition organized by several popular grassroots movements in Europe, including the English Defence League (EDL), mounted demonstrations in conjunction with LGBT Pride Week celebrations in Helsinki and Stockholm in July and August 2012.[19][20] In an interview for Radio Sweden, the Swedish author and activist Lisa Bjurwald claimed that the EDL have exploited pride events in the United Kingdom by bringing attention to Islamic homophobia and that Queers against Pinkwashing (a group which protested against the Stockholm march) is opposed to talking about homophobia in Islam and label all such attempts as "pinkwashing" and a "divide and conquer tactic."[20]

Intersex movement

In June 2016, Organisation Intersex International Australia pointed to contradictory statements by Australian governments, suggesting that the dignity and rights of LGBTI (LGBT and intersex) people are recognized while, at the same time, harmful practices on intersex children continue.[21]

In August 2016, Zwischengeschlecht described actions to promote equality or civil status legislation without action on banning "intersex genital mutilations" as a form of pinkwashing.[22] The organization has previously highlighted evasive government statements to UN Treaty Bodies that conflate intersex, transgender and LGBT issues, instead of addressing harmful practices on infants.[23]

Country comparisons

Stephan Lefebvre of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted how the Obama administration, followed by the mainstream U.S. media, has criticized Russia for its failure to provide basic civil liberties for its LGBT population. He contrasts that with the U.S. government's failure to condemn the comparable record on LGBT issues on the part of U.S. allies like Honduras, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the U.S. Government's failure to acknowledge progress on LGBT rights in Cuba. In his analysis, this constitutes pinkwashing, which he defines as "deliberately highlighting support for gay rights while ignoring or downplaying other relevant human rights issues".[24] Laurie Penny, an author and feminist activist, contrasted those who criticized Russia's LGBT policies during the Sochi Olympics with their silence on instances of homophobic treatment at their own countries' border crossings. She wrote:[25]

While western nations flap the rainbow flag defiantly in Russia's face, actual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being harassed and abused at their borders when they arrive seeking safety. Supporting the rights of LGBT people worldwide is to be commended, but if that sentiment is more than pinkwashing, it should be backed up by action at home.[25]

See also


  1. "Immigration".
  2. "HRC Apologizes for Mistreating Trans and Immigrant Activists at Supreme Court rally". 1 April 2013.
  3. "How Pinkwashing Masks the Retrograde Effects of Immigration Reform". The Huffington Post. 15 June 2013.
  4. "Critics accuse Kenney of 'pinkwashing' in targeted emails". CTV News. Archived from the original on May 15, 2015.
  5. Avraham, Eli. (2009), "Marketing and managing nation branding during prolonged crisis: The case of Israel". Vol. 5, 3, pp. 202–212.
  6. "Foreign Ministry promoting Gay Israel". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  7. Puar, Jasbir (1 July 2010). "Israel's gay propaganda war". The Guardian. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 Kaufman, David (May 13, 2011). "Is Israel Using Gay Rights to Excuse Its Policy on Palestine?". Time. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  9. "'Stop using Palestinian gays to whitewash Israel's image'". Haaretz. October 1, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  10. Kirchick, James (2012-04-06). "The Fallacy of the 'Pinkwashing' Argument". Haaretz. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  11. "The Pinkwashing Campaign Against Israel: Another Conspiracy Theory". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  12. Dershowitz, Alan. "The Next Hate Fest". New York Post. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  13. "Trustee Blasts CUNY Anti-Israel 'Homonationalism and Pinkwashing' Conference". Algemeiner Journal. June 8, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  14. Luongo, Michael (June 8, 2012). "Gay Palestinians caught in the middle of the conflict". Global Post. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  15. Michaelson, Jay (December 28, 2014). "How Canadian Oilmen Pinkwash the Keystone Pipeline". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  16. "Compare Canadian Ethical Oil to OPEC conflict oil.". OpenHatesGays. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  17. Wilkins, Naomi (November 11, 2014). "BP reach for the pinkwash with 'LGBT Careers Event'". Bright Green. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  18. Stark, Jill (June 7, 2015). ""Pink washing": marketing stunt or corporate revolution?".
  19. Deland, Mats; Minkenberg, Michael; Mays, Christin, eds. (2014). In the Tracks of Breivik: Far Right Networks in Northern and Eastern Europe. LIT Verlag. p. 12.
  20. 1 2 "Queers against Pinkwashing reject Counter Jihad". Radio Sweden. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  21. "Submission: list of issues for Australia's Convention Against Torture review". Organisation Intersex International Australia. June 28, 2016.
  22. ""Intersex legislation" that allows the daily mutilations to continue = PINKWASHING of IGM practices". Zwischengeschlecht. August 28, 2016.
  23. "TRANSCRIPTION > UK Questioned over Intersex Genital Mutilations by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child - Gov Non-Answer + Denial". Zwischengeschlecht. May 26, 2016.
  24. Lefebvre, Stephan (16 August 2013). "Foreign Policy Pinkwashing: Russia's New Law and Continuing Violence in Honduras". Center for Economic and Policy Research. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  25. 1 2 "Less homophobic than Russia? It's not something to give yourself a medal for". The Guardian.

External links

Look up pinkwashing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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