“Pinkwashing” and Black Sambo: Etsy Is Offending Everyone

October 17, 2012  |  

 

Groan. Etsy, the site known for selling crafts, vintage clothing and assorted crap, is also being accused of trying to capitalize on Breast Cancer Awareness Month and selling racist memorabilia.

This week, the site sent a newsletter to subscribers titled “Tickled Pink” with the subhead, “Show your love to the women in your life with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” However, upon further inspection, it turns out that only eight of the 24 products listed in the newsletter actually support causes related to breast cancer. So now the site is being accused of “pinkwashing” — highlighting things that are pink without contributing to the effort. (It’s similar to greenwashing, giving the impression of being environmentally friendly without actually doing anything to preserve the environment or aid in conservation efforts.)

Etsy’s lead merchandising specialist, Mary Andrews, told The Daily Dot:

We really appreciate the feedback and thoughtful discussion regarding the Etsy Finds email around Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our aim in the email was to acknowledge this national campaign of awareness. While we do not promote specific shop charities, nor did we make claims to do so in the email, we do support acts of generosity and compassion within the Etsy community. The email was meant for awareness, and created in a supportive spirit. We will take all of this into serious consideration as we map out improvements to our emails and how we promote awareness within our community in the future.

Sounds like pinkwashing to us, even if it was unintentional. They wanted to piggyback on the public’s concern and enthusiasm about Breast Cancer Awareness Month to sell stuff and got called on it.

On to the second and totally not unintentional issue, a woman named Raquel Mack has voiced her anger over the site’s sale of Mammies, Sambos and other racist items. Mack points out that making these things available violates the site’s own policy about providing “items that promote, support, or glorify hatred toward or otherwise demean people based upon: race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.” She’s started a Change.org petition that you can sign here. More than 1,000 people have already done so.

The NAACP has also gotten involved, contacting the site and getting this response, according to The Grio: “[O]ur members come from all walks of life, and may hold differing opinions of the legitimate  collectibility of certain types of historical items.” Translation: We’re sorry that you’re offended by this racist dreck, but we’re not inclined to do anything about it.

Moreover, The Grio points out that some of the items for sale are new items, being created specifically to be sold on the site, or even do-it-yourself kits so you can make your own hateful little toy, not historical items that have some sort of, perhaps, scholarly significance. Shameful and repugnant.

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