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Escapable Pinkwashing: A Conversation With Bradley Blaylock

Pride Month is coming to a close and, after cashing in on Queer dollars, many corporations will soon shed their rainbow-coloured logos. When these Pride-themed campaigns first came out, it felt good. The community was being recognized, included and celebrated. Unfortunately, many of these rainbows only end in a pot of gold for the companies rather than the Queer people they claim to support. This commodification of Pride is referred to as “pinkwashing,” and customers are noticing the signs of it.

No one knows how to determine the difference between genuine and surface-level support better than Bradley Blaylock, founder of Common Froot. Common Froot is a full-service 2SLGBTQIA+ marketing agency dedicated to executing campaigns that create real change and amplify Queer voices.

Even though Blaylock has seen his fair share of disingenuous marketing, his hopes for the future of Pride campaigns are high, and he aims to put an end to pinkwashing.

Why did you start Common Froot?

I’ve worked in the 2SLGBTQIA+ marketing industry for over five years now and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. [...] Now more than ever, [the community] needs a gatekeeper to help connect the dots between [themselves] and corporate [entities]. There is a lot of potential support in the world and we at Common Froot aim to be the facilitators. We have a mission to recreate the way people think about 2SLGBTQIA+ marketing and rewrite the foundations and structures of a campaign.

What is pinkwashing?

Many brands [...] pinkwash their products to cash in on rainbow-themed marketing. This means using products or services that are affiliated with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in a way that is not genuinely inclusive or supportive. This practice not only exploits marginalized groups for monetary gain but also silences and shuts down the voices that should be heard most during Pride Month.

How can businesses make a real (not performative) impact for Pride?

I think what's important to understand is that the 2SLGBTQIA+ community exists beyond Pride Month. I would challenge businesses to first look internally to make sure their staff is working in an environment that is safe and inclusive. Once you've established a strong foundation, it's time to identify which area of the community you'd like to support (for example, homeless youth, 2Sipirited initiatives, etc.). Once you know where you want to focus your efforts, think about how your company can make an impact. This could be through volunteer opportunities, donations to grassroots organizations, creating opportunities for Queer-voices to be amplified and more.

Even if a company has good intentions for its Pride campaign, these efforts are largely performative if they are not backed up by action. The good news is that many businesses flying rainbow flags are taking steps to help the community beyond June 30. Bradley has compiled a list of some of his favourite organizations that Canadians can feel good about supporting this Pride Month.

A relatively new business, tiptap is championing the charity space with its innovative tap-to-pay donation system.

With fewer people carrying cash, organizations need methods for capturing in-person donations that are fast, easy and effective. Through tiptap's work with 2SLGBTQIA+ organisations, corporate partners and local businesses, the Canadian company is helping charities increase brand awareness, raise more funds and cut down volunteer and staff hours required for cash management.

Household-name brands like TD set a standard for others to follow, and this corporate giant continues to act as a pillar of support for grassroots organizations 365 days a year.

From sponsorship and community building to internal D&I work, TD’s approach to 2SLGBTQIA+ support goes beyond the conventional one-time donation. The bank does its research, working alongside the community to build out effective and thoughtful support systems.

This Queer-owned-and-run business is putting the community first in everything it does. With event production, online articles and nightlife listings, YOHOMO consistently provides safe spaces for Queer and Trans individuals.

The organization aims to put funding back into the community by hiring Queer folks to create website content. It also donates a portion of its profits to 2SLGBTQIA+ charities across the city.

Understanding that community support goes beyond a rainbow logo, Aesop turned various retail locations into free 2SLGBTQIA+ libraries.

This creative and thoughtful campaign holds more meaning than a big float or generous donation; increasing access to Queer literature is key to amplifying the voices of this community.

After a long period of isolation for many Canadians, Queer spaces that facilitate community connection hold even more significance than they did a few years ago.

SPACE on King is an event venue in Toronto that welcomes folks of all identities. For Pride Month, SPACE hosted several parties, like Something’s BI BI BABY, an immersive art and dance party celebrating bisexuality, Fashion Magazine’s CAKE MIX and a free drag show. Additionally, studio space is being offered to Queer creatives at no cost. The venue's commitment will extend long after Pride as it continues to uplift and feature 2SLGBTQIA+ artists, performers and events.

When determining if the support you’re seeing is authentic, Common Froot encourages you to ask yourself these questions:

1. Are the profits from Queer-related merchandise being used to support the community?

2. Is the brand exploiting its audience by promoting empty campaigns with no real value to the community?

3. Is the brand itself anti-2SLGBTQIA+?

4. Is the company supporting Queer initiatives all year or just during Pride Month?

Whether you’re a member of the community or an ally, a little rainbow skepticism is encouraged.


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