Last Wednesday, September 1, Texas passed SB 8, a law that effectively bans abortion in the state. The response on social media, both from the general public and celebrities, was swift.
The following day, Benefit Cosmetics posted to its Instagram a graphic reading “Keep your laws off my body.” The beauty industry is unique, in that it is massive and successful, and predominantly run and patronized by women. And yet, many brands, even those that have spoken up about timely issues including Black Lives Matter, voter turnout and Stop Asian Hate, have remained silent on this matter. In contrast, fellow women-centric company, on Friday, Bumble announced a relief fund on Instagram for “women and people across the gender spectrum who seek abortions in Texas.”
At Planned Parenthood, the team had been prepared for the possibility of the ban passing. “We announced it to all of our corporate partners earlier in the week, and then we sent out individual follow-ups on Wednesday, with calls to action, graphics and talking points,” said Shantelle Dockett, associate director of corporate engagement at Planned Parenthood. Dockett mentioned MAC as another existing partner in the beauty industry. When discussing these partnerships, Dockett said, Planned Parenthood points to “research showing that consumers are boycotting brands that don’t align with their individual values.” Companies “can no longer sit on the sidelines,” she said.
As such, it’s surprising that more brands in the female-dominated beauty space have not spoken out. According to research from Jefferies released on September 7, “Ninety-eight percent of businesses say acting on ESG-related issues is more or much more important than it was 12 months ago. However, only 20% of companies say they are very ready to talk to investors and only 10% are very ready to speak to consumers about ESG-related topics.” Furthermore, “more than two-thirds of consumers are more committed to supporting socially and environmentally responsible companies than before the pandemic started,” the research showed.
Benefit Cosmetics has counted Planned Parenthood as an official partner since 2019. The more than 100-year-old organization is part of the cosmetics brand’s Bold Is Beautiful project, which supports five organizations supporting women and girls. When Benefit selected its nonprofit partners, it looked for organizations that offered access to health and wellness. “There is no organization in the U.S. that offers more comprehensive, high-quality access to health and wellness than Planned Parenthood. It’s the nation’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care, as well as the largest provider of sex education,” said Jennifer Whipple, Benefit’s vp of U.S. marketing.
Benefit has 10 million followers on Instagram, and its Instagram post about the Texas abortion ban currently has 161,642 likes and 11,029 comments. While, of course, there were comments from people stating that they will unfollow the brand on behalf of its post, there were also many voices chiming in to thank the brand for taking a stand. (Every brand that posted received a mix of positive and negative responses.) One commenter wrote, “me running to Benefit’s website to buy something.” The brand replied: “But first run to your phone to hit up your leaders nationwide.” Of course, Whipple said, the brand anticipated both kinds of responses and was prepared to moderate its comment section.
According to Dockett, the opposing side typically is not the brand’s target audience. “We educate our partners. We know that [the antis] are significantly older, they’re more male, [and] they’re less diverse. So, when you’re speaking to beauty brands, these aren’t their consumers anyway.”
“Benefit is a female-founded brand that’s been dedicated to empowering women and girls since our inception in 1976,” Whipple said, “So there was really no question about our stance, and it was a no-brainer to make that stance public.”
Speaking out, it turns out, is powerful. Wednesday’s post was the Benefit’s most-engaged-with post in two years, including those critical of the brand for discussing anything not directly related to makeup at all. “It wasn’t our intention for the post to get as many likes or comments as it did. We believe we should use our platform not only for laughter, fun and beauty, but also for voicing our stance on real issues that we are for or against as a brand … really[facilitating] meaningful conversations on our platform,” Whipple said. Benefit did not provide details on the impact on sales on time for this story.
On Friday, clean-makeup brand Saie, which has 90,000 followers on Instagram, posted a slideshow that included details about the ban via screenshots of tweets posted by the ACLU. It directed its followers to five funds raising money for Texans including Jane’s Due Process, Texas Equal Access Fund, Lilith Fund, Buckle Bunnies and Planned Parenthood. Founder Laney Crowell said the brand made donations to all five but did not specify the amount donated.
“We built Saie to be a brand that believes everyone should have the right to feel good in their body and feel empowered to make their own choices for their personal wellbeing,” the brand wrote in its caption. Like Benefit’s, Saie’s post saw record-breaking engagement for the brand, with 4,598 likes and 469 comments. (Saie has posted 723 times and only launched in 2019.) When asked about the decision to post, Crowell stated the facts: “Abortion is health care.”
“We are a business [where] our primary consumer is female-identifying. And, we’re also a business that’s all about health and feeling good. It was really important for us to support our consumers, support women, support health care for women and ultimately be on the right side of history,” Crowell said.
Saie’s post correlated with Labor Day weekend, a busy time for shopping, and Crowell noted that support for the brand’s statement may have also contributed to its spike in sales over the weekend. The brand received many emails from people saying “Thank you so much. I am now a forever customer,” she said.
Another brand to take a stance on its social media feed was Goop, which has 1.7 million followers. Goop’s post on Friday featured an illustration of flowers forming the shape of a uterus, and its caption directed followers to resources and organizations that support access to safe abortions. It received 33,751 likes and 829 comments.
Crowell herself noted that she’d purchased from both Benefit and Goop in the last few days to show her support.
Fempower Beauty, which sells a collection of four lipsticks, addressed Texas’ move via Instagram on Thursday. Its Instagram post featured a graphic that reads “Pregnancy should not make a body public property.” The brand has nearly 6,000 followers and has received 1,627 likes and 40 comments on its post.
“The details of this new law are eerily dystopian… This is not the reality and future we want to build — and all industries, especially beauty brands that claim to be rooted in empowerment and self care, should be speaking up. It’s one thing to say you are rooted in empowerment, and it’s another to do something about it,” said Fempower co-founder Christina Basias. “Though we are a bootstrapped startup currently seeking investment, we are donating 50% of the proceeds of our fiery red Lilith lipstick ($25) purchases to the Lilith Fund (the oldest abortion fund in Texas) for the month of September. It’s a reminder that we are all invincible, like Lilith, when we stand together,” co-founder Alexis Androulakis said.
Skin-care brand Dieux posted a carousel announcing a Labor Day promotion, but also that it would be donating “$1 of every sale to Planned Parenthood for the long weekend.” The post contains three slides expressing opposition to SB 8 and explaining how rare it is for a woman to even know she’s pregnant within the first six weeks of pregnancy. It goes on to say how this ban will disproportionately impact women of color, as well as “anyone who doesn’t have the means to travel to another state or area to make what is already a difficult decision.”
The brand has 39,000 followers on Instagram, its post received 625 likes and 32 comments. “We have uteruses and, quite frankly, are devastated by what’s happening,” said co-founder and CEO Charlotte Palermino. “We know that banning abortions doesn’t stop abortions; it just makes them less safe. We know that the people banning abortions don’t have a uterus, so it doesn’t impact them… That needs to be left in the Dark Ages, and it feels like we’re barreling back toward them.”