The culture wars took a different turn this week as conservatives attacked a candy bar ad campaign from Hershey’s featuring a transgender woman—and then launched a competing chocolate brand labeled with two distinct genders.
The spat is the latest pitting conservatives against what they say is increasing ‘wokeness’ by big business to appeal to more progressive consumers, but which jars on traditionalists and those who argue that companies have no place in pushing their political views alongside their goods.
The campaign from 129-year-old Hershey won praise from liberals during a period celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in Canada. It includes chocolate-bar wrappers in various countries that highlight the “HER” or the “SHE” in the Hershey’s label. There’s also a “HER” bar, a “SHE” bar and a “HER for SHE” bar.
That prompted conservative news outlet The Daily Wire to launch a non-“woke” competitor to the world-famous Hershey’s candy bar called Jeremy’s Chocolates, named for co-CEO Jeremy Boreing.
“I love an international woman. But our friends over at Hershey’s, they don’t even know what a woman is,” Boreing says in an ad that garnered more than 1 million views on Twitter in a matter of hours.
“They hired a biological male to be the spokesperson for their Women’s Day campaign. And they’re calling that campaign — and I swear I’m not making this up: ‘Her. She.’ … It’s humiliating.”
And a Jeremy’s Chocolate bar is not cheap, at about $6 apiece for a 1.5 oz bar, with discounts for a pack of 10 or of 24. A 1.55 oz Hershey’s bar retails online for $1.24 on Walmart‘s website.
“We have two kinds: ‘SheHer, and ‘HeHim.’ One of them’s got nuts. If you need me to tell you which one it is, keep giving your money to Hershey’s,” Boreing quips, before directing potential customers to IHateHersheys.com.
Hershey’s chocolate bars are offered for sale on July 16, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. There are calls to boycott the manufacturer over its decision to include a transgender activist in an International Women’s Day promotion. Scott Olson/Getty Images
It’s the Hershey’s “Her for She” bar in Canada that’s garnering the most attention, and even calls for a boycott after five women were chosen to have their images on the five different versions of the wrapper, and one was transgender activist Fae Johnstone.
“The Chocolate’s out of the wrapper!” Johnstone tweeted. “Honored to be featured in this campaign by @Hersheys Canada for #InternationalWomensDay alongside 4 brilliant sisters and change-makers.”
But after some discussions on talk radio, mentions of the “Her She” bar on Fox News and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake using it to encourage conservatives to stay engaged in the culture wars, #BoycottHersheys was spreading on Twitter.
Kawiporn “Auntie Tim” Vinijthaopatom poses with the Hershey’s chocolate bar featuring her as part of their “SHE cares” campaign for International Women’s Day on March 03, 2023 in Saraburi, Thailand. Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
Hershey’s noted in a press release that it is making a donation to the nonprofit group, Girls on the Run. “We hope to spark meaningful, heartwarming connections through the simple gesture of giving a SHE bar to someone who has played an important role in your life,” says brand manager Katie DeCapria in the Hershey’s press release.
When asked about the boycott and competition from The Daily Wire, Hershey’s told Newsweek: “We value togetherness and recognize 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.”
Meanwhile, the debate rages on Twitter. Jim Treacher, a political commentator with 61,000 followers, for example, tweeted: “Men are better at everything! Even being women!”
And conservative motivational speaker Nick Adams tweeted to his 498,000 followers an altered photo of the Hershey’s bar with the “HE” highlighted rather than the “HER” or the “SHE,” and he included the text: “I will be boycotting Hershey until I see something like this on grocery store shelves.”
On the other side is, for one, Ariel Troster, a councilor for Somerset Ward in Ottawa and self-described “queer Jew” with 18,000 followers who tweeted: “Fae Johnstone is brilliant and an absolutely vital public voice. Send her some love, because the bigots are out in full force after seeing her featured in this ad for #InternationalWomensDay.”
And Egale Canada, a legal advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, issued a statement saying it is “disgusted by the transphobic response to what should be a celebrated campaign … Trans people are regularly excluded from mainstream media and culture and having trans inclusion in a national campaign like Hershey’s ‘Her for She’ campaign, helps to increase visitibilty and representation for the trans community.”
This isn’t the first time that Boreing used a company he perceived as going woke as an opportunity to launch a new product, as it introduced last year, Jeremy’s Razors in response to Harry’s Razors dropping its advertising at The Daily Wire for, as Boreing put it, “saying boys are boys and girls are girls.”
There is, in fact, a growing cottage industry from conservatives attacking perceived wokeness in business. That includes the American Values Exchange Traded Fund for investors who wish to avoid supporting left-leaning companies and Strive Asset Management, which seeks to push back against ESG, an emphasis on behalf of companies that seeks to stress their focus on the environment, social and governance efforts over profits.
Strive founder Vivek Ramaswamy, who recently declared his candidacy for U.S. president, told Newsweek in August that “the role of a depoliticized private sector is to bring us together, whether we are Black or white, red or blue. A divided body politic is dangerous, and this problem is caused in part by asset managers who demand that CEOs engage in a political agenda.”
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 12: Jeremy Boreing speaks at Daily Wire Presents Backstage Live at Ryman Auditorium on October 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. Boreing has launched Jeremy’s Chocolate. Keith Griner/Getty