Especially now, during Pride Month, we see many brands launch their Pride themed collections and companies spice up their brand logo with the colors of the rainbow. Like that, they are showing (only visual) solidarity, however, oftentimes they do this to bring more profit. That is called Wokewashing and totally sucks!
So, Wokewashing is when a corporation, institution or individual says or does something that signals their advocacy for a marginalized cause but also continues to cause harm to vulnerable communities.
Next to Wokewashing, there also terms like Pinkwashing and Greenwashing, you should have heard of:
Pinkwashing is a term with multiple meanings, but most commonly refers to the deliberate appropriation of sexual liberation movements towards regressive political ends. The phrase now commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement to promote a particular corporate or political agenda. In other words, entities market themselves as “gay-friendly” to gain favor with progressives, while masking aspects that are violent and undemocratic.
Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. This method is considered an unsubstantiated claim to trick consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly. For example, companies involved in greenwashing behavior might make claims that their products are fromor have energy-saving benefits. Although some of the environmental claims might be partly true, companies engaged in greenwashing typically exaggerate their claims or the benefits in an attempt to mislead consumers.
These practices are part of Brand Activism – another term we should be aware of. There are probably many companies out there which would prefer to not state their position in regard to important political questions. However, the majority of the Millennials and other young generations expect their favorite brand to position themselves on topics such as social and environmental change. That is partly because we grow up in times in which social problems are so vividly clear and present in the media. Therefore it becomes a necessity for many brands to create content about progressive values if they want to participate in the Millennial market.
But how can we do better? Who can we trust?
Some of our most beloved brands are doing more harm than good to workers, the environment, and minority communities, the list goes on and on. Instead of improving their practices, they practice Wokewashing, Pinkwashing, or Greenwashing. So it’s partly up to ourselves to improve our choices. Research and a certain curiosity about a brand’s background and system will surely help.
In this age of sovereignty and growing personal power, can we make the necessary changes ourselves? Perhaps. But this is a major transition time. And whilst we figure that one out, there’s a whole cacophony of companies and corporations only too happy to make us exactly the promises we most want to hear.