(NEXSTAR) – Hershey has responded to backlash over the decision to highlight the work of a trans activist as part of its International Women’s Day promotion, saying that the inclusive campaign “recognize[s] the strength in diversity.”
Critics first began calling for a Hershey boycott over the last week, after Hershey Canada announced the release of limited-edition chocolate bars featuring the likenesses of “five Canadian women working to build a better future through their passion, activism, and work in their communities.”
Among the five is Fae Johnstone, a trans woman and 2SLGBTQ+ activist (“2S” standing for “two spirit” or “two-spirited,” referring to a non-binary gender designation associated with some indigenous North American peoples).
“Honoured to be featured in this campaign by @Hersheys Canada for #InternationalWomensDay alongside 4 brilliant sisters and change-makers,” Johnstone wrote on Twitter shortly after the “Her for She” campaign was announced by Hershey Canada.
Many Twitter users responding to Johnstone’s post were congratulatory, sharing messages of support for Johnstone’s efforts toward trans inclusivity and representation.
Others, meanwhile, claimed they would no longer support Hershey because of Johnstone’s inclusion in the campaign.
Amy Kremer, the co-founder of Women for Trump, claimed the campaign was “disgusting” and called for a boycott of Hershey’s chocolate. Other critics, many of whom identified as conservative in their Twitter biographies, appeared to claim that they, too, would be giving up the company’s products in response to Johnstone’s inclusion.
Some alleged that the campaign was offensive to “women” in general, despite Johnstone identifying as a women herself, and being only one of the five female-identifying “Her for She” honorees.
Hershey Canada has since responded to the backlash, saying the company “value[s] togetherness and recognize[s] the strength created by diversity.”
“Over the past three years, our Women’s History Month programming has been an inclusive celebration of women and their impact. We appreciate the countless people and meaningful partnerships behind these efforts,” the company wrote in a message shared via Instagram.
The Hershey Company shared the same statement in an emailed response to Nexstar.
Johnstone, too, responded, but more directly addressed the “far right” critics she considered a threat to trans rights.
“The reaction to my inclusion as a trans woman in Hersheys Canada’s IWD campaign shows just how far we still have to go in the fight for feminist liberation and trans rights,” she wrote in a Twitter thread discussing the backlash. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not shutting up. I will always stand up for women and girls, cis and trans.”
Johnstone has also said she would not be responding to media inquiries, preferring to let things “blow over.”
In addition to spotlighting the five 2023 “Her for She” honorees, Hershey Canada has also pledged to give $40,000 in support for Girl Up, an organization that works to empower young women and develop leadership skills.