So. At the start of the week, I was intending to write a post about my recent experience of using Lush’s Cacao Henna on my hair. (Disclaimer in case anyone thinks I’m already a bad mother: you can dye your hair when pregnant with this stuff, as it’s plant based. I checked.) I had a really good experience with it and have had loads of compliments. I took some Dutch friends to the Brighton store to have a look and bought some bits and pieces for myself- I was all for Lush.
And then this happened. There is a massive trigger warning attached to watching the video, as it shows a female subject forcibly being victimised and ‘tested on’ the way an animal is. If you don’t want to watch the video (and, having watched it myself, I don’t blame you), it’s basically that two male ‘scientists’ test products on the woman in the window of their flagship store in Regent’s Street, London.
There has been a whole (in my opinion, deserved, although your mileage may vary) hullabaloo about the stunt and Lush has responded with this statement. The questions, for me, that arise from it are:
1) Why did Lush feel it was “it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman. […]It would have been disingenuous at best to have pretended that a male subject could represent such systemic abuse”? Is this because women buy cosmetics? The thing that this point misses is that ‘cosmetics’ covers everything from toothpaste to shaving foam and I think that those are pretty much unisex products. Also, why was it vital to have a woman in the role of the abused? Why does Lush think that a man wouldn’t have had such an effect? (I’m pretty sure women are probably more informed about the testing that goes on for makeup than men, as we’ve been the target audience for campaigns against it for years.)
2) The campaign was going pretty well already in stores- every time I went in, I was asked to sign the petition and I saw that most customers did. This is a campaign that has been launched across all stores that many people had a lot of goodwill for. If it was as successful as it looked, why launch a PETA-style shock-tactic campaign? This to me just smacks of desperate publicity stunt. How many new signatures did Lush get on the street as a result of this? I bet it’s not that many.
3) Did you not consider the people in the street: for example, children. I’m very anti having anything forced upon me and this seemed hard to avoid. The imagery was violent and disturbing. A lot of feminist sites have pointed out that victims of abuse would also have been effected. So, you know, not everyone shares the views of the company and putting on such a protest that lasted TEN HOURS is kind of extreme.
4) Was it worth the ire that the whole circus has provoked? I’ve read a lot of comments and although some are very-pro what Lush did, an awful lot are against, for whatever reason. I think maybe it’s snowballed a bit out of where Lush thought it would go. There’s a lot of debate about the gender politics of the piece of ‘performance art’, whether all animal testing is bad (I was an ardent animal rights supporter in my teens, but still acknowledged that without animal tests, I wouldn’t be here, due to my mother’s diabetes, which would have killed her), or whether Lush has been naive/arrogant/preaching to the converted/smug. There’s also a LOT of talk about whether to boycott the company. I have to say, I’m torn. I love Lush products, but then again I can get cruelty free elsewhere. I live in Brighton, for goodness’ sake- everything has its vegan equivalent down here.
Overall, I’m sad. I’m sad that a company that had some good intentions has jumped on the odious women-as-campaign-meat bandwagon so adored by PETA. I’m sad that the ‘defence’ was not a defence, but seemed a bit smug. I’ll not be buying from Lush or featuring a Lush product on my blog until some kind of proper acknowledgement/apology is issued.