Slang dictionary


[ pingk-wosh-ing ]

What is pinkwashing?

Pinkwashing is a critical term used to refer to the practice of attempting to benefit from purported support for LGBTQ+ rights, often as a way to profit or to distract from a separate agenda.

The term pinkwashing is also sometimes used in a separate but similarly critical way to refer to the practice of attempting to benefit from purported support for breast cancer awareness, often as a way to profit or create goodwill for a brand. This sense is now less commonly used.

Both senses of the term imply that the purported support is not genuine and likely does not benefit the cause.

The sense of pinkwashing relevant to the context of LGBTQ+ rights is often used during Pride Month to refer of companies’ use of the occasion as a marketing and sales opportunity without making meaningful contributions to the cause—or, in some cases, even working against it, such as by donating to politicians who support anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

This sense of the term is also sometimes applied to the practices of governments or organizations that depict themselves as more inclusive of members of the LGBTQ+ community to benefit their image and/or distract from other policies or actions.

The verb form pinkwash is also used (for both senses of the term).

Related words

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, LGBTQ History Month, Pride Month

Where does pinkwashing come from?

dark pink text "pinkwashing" on light pink background

The ending -washing in pinkwashing is based on the noun form of the verb whitewash, meaning “to cover up or gloss over past deeds or faults.” The same ending is used in other terms that refer to practices considered disingenuous, such as greenwashing (superficial support or concern for environmental issues).

In the context of breast cancer, the group Breast Cancer Action claims to have coined the term pinkwashing in 2002, first using it in a campaign to call out companies that sold products related to breast cancer awareness that were made from potentially carcinogenic materials. The term references the pink ribbon used to represent breast cancer awareness (the color pink is commonly featured in items used to promote and raise money for breast cancer awareness and research).

The sense of pinkwashing used in the context of LGBTQ+ rights emerged later, in the 2010s. The first prominent use in this context was by critics of the Israeli government in allegations that the government was attempting to use a campaign promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity to deflect attention away from criticism of its treatment of Palestinians. It’s unclear why the pink in this sense of pinkwashing was used, though it may have been in reference to the pink triangle sometimes used as a Pride symbol.

The term has since been used to refer to similar alleged tactics by other groups and organizations.

While both senses of pinkwashing are still used, its use in the context of LGBTQ+ rights has become more common.

Examples of pinkwashing

Israeli Pride is an actual, organic expression of the actual, living, breathing LGBTQIA+ community of Israel. The way it's sold & weaponized in the hasbara war - THAT'S pinkwashing. Pls don't erase Israel's LGBTQIA+ community as you fight for Palestinians' human & civil rights.
@emilylhauser, June 4, 2019
What you buy and where you shop matters, especially in this day and age where pinkwashing is common practice, with big-name brands and mainstream retailers commandeering Pride Month to release out-and-proud and “love is love” lines just to cash in as they do with just about every holiday or celebration.
Carrie Bell, Rolling Stone, June 2022

Who uses pinkwashing?

The term pinkwashing is most commonly used by critics of companies, organizations, and governments that are said to superficially support or claim to support LGBTQ+ rights to benefit themselves without making any meaningful contributions.

A separate, older sense of pinkwashing is also used in a similarly critical way in the context of breast cancer awareness.

Just Added

Black Music Appreciation Month, Older Americans Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


This is not meant to be a formal definition of pinkwashing like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of pinkwashing that will help our users expand their word mastery.