Fae Johnstone, the executive director of Wisdom2Action, was recently featured in Hershey’s International Women’s Day campaign in Canada. Johnstone, a trans woman, was one of five women celebrated by Hershey’s to “give young girls positive possibility models.” However, her inclusion in the campaign sparked a right-wing backlash, with the hashtag #BoycottHersheys trending on Twitter.
In addition to being deadnamed and misgendered by right-wing media figures, including Matt Walsh and Tucker Carlson, Johnstone received a wave of hateful emails and DMs. Speaking to PinkNews, Johnstone expressed feeling “violated and traumatised” by the experience.
However, amidst the hate campaign, Johnstone also received an outpouring of solidarity and support from feminist and queer organizations, parents of queer and trans kids, and trans folks themselves. Johnstone emphasized that this hate campaign is just the latest example of far-right groups dehumanizing trans people and trying to push them out of public life.
This incident is part of a larger trend of Republican lawmakers in the US pushing bills that target access to gender-affirming care and other trans rights. Tennessee recently passed a law criminalizing doctors who offer care to trans youth, as well as a ban on drag performers that could also be used to target trans performers. The state is also considering a bill that would define sex as immutable. The Human Rights Campaign has already tracked approximately 180 anti-trans bills introduced this year.
Hershey’s, in a statement to CNN, said it recognizes the “strength created by diversity” and that its Women’s History Month programming over the past three years has been an inclusive celebration of women.
Despite the hate campaign, Johnstone remains resolute and encouraged trans folks to take care of themselves in the face of rising hate. She also expressed gratitude for the support she’s received from allies and accomplices. The incident with Hershey’s is not the first time right-wing groups have expressed disapproval of brands attempting to be trans-inclusive, with M&S, Tampax, and even Peppa Pig facing brief boycotts last year.