The soap gondola

We assigned a colour to what cleans. Curious. We no longer wash with crystal clear waters. The hygiene microcrystals -represented (less and less, thank you God) by their respective superheroes in capes, with masks and underpants on tights- are blue, purple, green, silver, grey, pearl, yellow, orange, and like every product innovation, each of those shades has a scientific foundation that we can read on the back of the bag. And just like our soaps and detergents, our heads learned that there was a colour for each type of wash. And that everything -absolutely everything- is washable, with the consequence that the conscience is also clean. The hands of Pontius Pilate. A lagoon. Your reputation. Rational Benefit / Emotional Benefit, the brief would say.

The demand for this phenomenon grew and with it the gondola with a name and a colour for each washing need. Because, as our friend Don Draper says, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.” Greenwashing if you want to tell how you got rid of straws and use biodegradable bags even if your company’s carbon footprint is through the roof (or in the depths, depending on your sector). Black/brownwashing if you want to hire “people of colour” in front office, but make them dance to Afro-Peruvian music at the first opportunity. Pinkwashing to put women dressed in sepia shedding a lonely tear for overcoming breast cancer in front of the camera in October, but without adequate monitoring of their medical needs. Purplewashing (also works as Pink) if you talk about female empowerment – never the word that starts with F because your clients may have a stroke- even if you don’t work on policies against sexual harassment. Rainbow-washing if you literally decorate the workplace with rainbow flags and go out with your team to march in June but ask your LGBTQ + workers “not to mention sensitive issues” the rest of the year. Washing is just that, an aesthetic measure used as facade, many times in a grid that is activated for weeks, never that always on in which we live and viscerally sweat any aspect of humanity, in that mixture of categories (race, gender, environmental status, etcetera) that is called intersectionality and that forces us to think of a system, not an action. Any of these washings evades the background work that is the redesign of that system and the restructuring of your hierarchies and priorities.

I conclude this article while a woman becomes, by default, and for reasons that do not make us proud, a political figure “in charge” in Peru. In the reactions that I am seeing, we no longer buy that pink soap of “the first woman who…”, because that pink soap does not wash away the indelible ink of corruption, and that, at least in politics, we already learned (although we can always regress). Rather than rewashing without coloured soaps, we need to stop washing things that actually need to be rebuilt. Be it Peru, your company or your campaign.

Illustration by Erick Baltodano.


Gabriela Sialer