Stop complaining: There is power in the rainbow profile pictures.

Enough with the rainbow filter-shaming.

If your friends are more liberal than Liberal, your Facebook news feed has probably turned rainbow over the past three days.

There’s a good chance you too switched your profile picture to those symbolic stripes using Facebook’s celebratepride tool, basking in that glow of solidarity as you celebrated the USA-wide legalisation of gay marriage.

Read a beautiful paragraph that explains marriage equality perfectly here

It was a lovely moment of unity, a rare reminder of what a politically progressive victory feels like —  and in Australia, it sparked a flicker of hope that we might soon see some similar progress on marriage equality closer to home.

And then, inevitably, the critiques (and critics) started to roll in.

If your news feed has turned rainbow? That’s a good thing.

Bloggers and social media commentators have started to ponder whether there’s something “off” a little bit off about this “super easy way to celebrate gay pride”. Meanwhile, a group of activists want us to ‘hold our applause’ for the rainbow profile pictures, The Guardian reports today, because Facebook doesn’t allow all LGBT+ people to sign up using their adopted name.

On my news feed, a meme that lists of the types of discrimination the LGBT+ community still faces is doing the rounds — its point being that marriage equality alone isn’t enough to redress inequality.

Others have complained online that the rainbow filter craze is just another instance of #clicktivism or #slacktivism like, say, the coke between boobs challenge or the #NoMakeUp selfie campaign.

Related: How to add a rainbow filter to your profile picture.

Well, to those who dismiss the rainbow profiles as lazy social media slacktivism, I say: You’re missing the point.

The rainbow Facebook wave won’t single-handedly solve discrimination, sure. But it is powerful in its own way.

As a non-LGBT+ person, I hope the rainbow filter lets those within the LGBT+ community that I don’t align myself with those douchebags who judge and hate and shame others because of their sexual orientation.


And for those afraid to express their true sexual orientation for fear of discrimination and abuse, I hope it’s buoying to scroll down a news feed and see hundreds of rainbow filters adorning the profiles of acquaintances.

I hope it’s heartening to learn you have potential allies in places you’d never have expected; to see that even your Liberal-voting cousin, even that normally apolitical high school jock, and even that slightly scary neighbour all agree that all love is equal, and believe the Federal government has it wrong on this one.

“For those afraid to express their true sexual orientation for fear of discrimination and abuse, I hope it’s heartening to scroll down a news feed and see hundreds and hundreds of rainbow filters on the profiles of acquaintances.”

There’s something else that can be achieved by the tidal wave of rainbow filters, too: It can help popularise support for LGBT+ rights, encouraging more and more people to take their Facebook friends’ leads by learning, talking and advocating openly for LGBTI+ rights in the real world. One possible outcome , as The Atlantic envisages, is a turning of the stigmatisation tables — a “a spiral of silence where people who now imagine themselves in the minority keep more quiet about their political views.”

Related: A statement by the Mamamia Women’s Network about marriage equality.

In turn, the sheer magnitude of the social media movement will, hopefully, highlight how very behind the times Australia is on this issue, sending a clear signal to our populist-minded politicians that it’s time to make some changes.

The Atlantic asks whether we’ll see a “spiral of silence where people who now imagine themselves in the minority keep more quiet about their political views” – as in this tongue-in-cheek meme.

So if you’re doubting whether your rainbow filter is worth it — if you’re feeling shamed by those who focus on its limitations — you can tell them this: The two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive.

Yes, we still have a hell of a long way to go before homophobia is a thing of the past. And no, rainbow profile pictures won’t change the law, won’t stop homophobic violence, and won’t “solve” LGBT+ discrimination once and for all.

But it will signify a little token of support for a community that, for too long, has been publicly shamed, vilified and rejected. And yes, there is power in that.

Related: 18 arguments against gay marriage — and why they’re bollocks.

Some of the MM editorial team getting their rainbow filter on: