Outrage sparked over Her-She bars is a major overreaction


Aynsleigh Penland

Graphic design made by Aynsleigh Penland using Canva’s presentation software

“Hershey’s puts the ‘man’ in ‘woman’ with a new promotional candy bar,” wrote the Washington Examiner about the Hershey’s chocolate bar released for International Women’s Day 2023. What on Earth is that? Aside from the egregious bigoted language, why is there such outrage over a chocolate bar?

The Hershey’s chocolate company continued their yearly tradition of a package for International Women’s Day that made a play on words with their company’s name. The bars had some variation of “Her-she-ys” to make the ‘her’ and or ‘she’ highlighted in the name.

The controversy was stirred up by some conservatives after it was released that one of the faces of the “Her-She” bar campaign was a trans woman. The woman, Fae Johnstone, is a queer civil rights activist who owns and directs the organization Wisdom2Action. 

The Washington Examiner published one of the least oppressively offensive titles of articles on this subject. The right-wing media has put out countless articles full of hateful rhetoric which bears no repeating.

This thick blanket of hate clouds any attempt to get accurate information on the campaign. 

What these campaigns miss are the other women who are both a part of this campaign and deserve recognition. 

The other women, Autumn Peltier, Rita Audi, Naila Moloo, and Kélicia Massala, are impressive and worthy of recognition in their own right. From climate change and equal rights activism to climate tech research and founding Girl Up Quebec, these women have done amazing things.

None of the articles that attack Johnstone for being trans and a women’s icon go on to shed a light on the accomplishments of the other women. Instead, they focus solely on the presence of a trans woman.

The media companies that push this simply want to attack trans people, rather than celebrate accomplishments that deserve recognition. They simply want to spread hate.

Even if one would like to argue that Johnstone’s recognition takes away from the accomplishments of the other women or that she is disproportionately represented among the figureheads, that simply isn’t true. 

First, the notion that giving praise to five women rather than four women takes away from the other four is flatly wrong. None of the other women are harmed or hampered in terms of having their accomplishments known. 

In fact, having a fifth person who shares the quality of doing activism, especially activism that helps women, is just bolstering the strength and outreach the campaign can have.

It’s important that Johnstone is a queer woman as well when it comes to the amount of queer heterosexual and cisgender women in this campaign. 

Depending on the study, the ratio between queer and not sits between one in five and one in six. This number places the number of queer women in the campaign squarely in line with the demographics of queer people in society. 

There is no way to know for certain whether or not she was chosen to fit that statistic, but even if not, her representation is directly proportional to queer people broadly. 

There is no issue with Johnstone’s inclusion, that is unless you simply do not like trans people in public spaces. It should go without saying but that attitude is childish and full of hate, and so too is the response to the advertisement campaign.