Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award
District 65 School Board votes to close Dr. Bessie Rhodes School
Kathryn Hahn declares class of 2024 “worthy of celebration” in commencement address
Pro-Palestinian graduates walk out of 2024 Commencement Ceremony in solidarity with Gaza
‘Wildcats should have wild dreams:’ Nikki Okrah delivers optimistic 2024 Weinberg Convocation address
The Daily Explains: Contextualizing the Evanston reparations lawsuit
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Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Tewaaraton Award

May 30, 2024

Lacrosse: No. 1 Northwestern falls 14-13 to No. 2 Boston College in national championship battle

May 26, 2024

Campus Kitchens fills plates and hearts

Why Club Sports at Northwestern?

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Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

DeLeon: Pride for profit – the repercussions of rainbow washing

Representation of and public support for a cause is becoming increasingly important for businesses to successfully cater to their audiences. You might remember Chipotle’s “Homo Estás?” campaign. Not only was the offensive use of Spanish hilariously horrific, but as a gay man I was shocked at how Chipotle thought it would get away with this superficial display of allyship, just in time for Pride Month 2015.

Business practices of pinkwashing and greenwashing are examples of how companies falsely support causes, such as feminism and climate control, as a means of profiting from earnest shoppers. But as we head toward Pride Month, my eyes are on rainbow washing.

Scotty, who goes by the username @scot_e, speaks about queer issues online, has a video discussing the ways businesses are performative in their service for queer folks. He points out specifically that many businesses use “pride flags and rainbow iconography” only in queer-friendly spaces.

Scotty calls out these businesses for rainbow washing because it takes credit away from the queer communities that created safe spaces for themselves and profits from a false narrative.

Queer influencer Matt Bernstein also talks about the danger of businesses neglecting their queer brand partners. Target is a prime example of this, as the brand pushes rainbow and pride-related merchandise only around June to boost profits while doing little else to support queer communities during the remainder of the year.

The most salient example, though, is Bud Light, whose advertisement campaign in 2023 with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney was disappointing because of the company’s lack of follow through in protecting Mulvaney after the campaign received backlash.

Dylan Mulvaney is known for her Days of Girlhood series on TikTok. She quickly became a powerful content creator for sharing her transition story despite backlash from some viewers. During her increasing popularity, Bud Light reached out to her and other content creators to cater to a more progressive audience.

Mulvaney posted a video promoting Bud Light, and the company sent her a can of beer with her face on it to commemorate her transition journey. This can of beer would lead many conservative customers to boycott the brand because of its support of transgender people, and later queer bars and foil around the nation pulled Bud Light from their bars after what would become of Bud Light’s failed attempt at incorporating Mulvaney into their marketing.

I want to clarify that I don’t think Bud Light was wrong for supporting Dylan Mulvaney. In fact, when I initially heard about its decision to have Mulvaney become one of the new faces of Bud Light, I was pretty amazed considering I didn’t think Bud Light appealed to queer buyers that much. But, I was disappointed by how little they supported Mulvaney after receiving backlash from conservative drinkers.

Right-wing news networks got a hold of this can of beer and had a field day with it. Videos of people shooting packs of beer, merchandise promoting anti-trans rhetoric and even a federal investigation initiated by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) against Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, for promoting underage drinking surfaced all over the internet as a result of the conservatives thinking Mulvaney was promoting transitioning for kids.

Mulvaney has massively cut down her media presence since to protect her safety. Bud Light, at least to my knowledge, has yet to do anything to protect her. Bud Light essentially used Mulvaney as a tactic to sell more beer, but as soon as things got complicated, it neglected Mulvaney and her safety.

While Bud Light seemed to have good intentions in highlighting a trans voice with this campaign, its lack of support to Mulvaney represents how this decision was only for business purposes.

Target as well has received some backlash. Conservatives on X were upset at Target for selling tucking underwear and shortly after Target received bomb threats, whipping up fear about sexualization of kids. In reaction, Target relocated its Pride sections into the back of stores nationwide.

I won’t ignore the fact that Target experienced a large safety threat and needed to act accordingly to protect the safety of shoppers, but putting the Pride section in the back of stores across the nation says something about its performative support for queer people.

At the end of the day, rainbow washing is just capitalism that has latched its claws onto another social movement. Brands continue to disregard queer progress anytime their bottom dollar is at stake. Queer content creators and brands struggled to bounce back as a result of the Bud Light controversy, and this year, it’s crucial to support queer brands and public figures instead of businesses that slap a rainbow sticker on their brand leading up to Pride month.

Isaiah DeLeon is a Weinberg junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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