In 2019 we first exposed Playboy-owned sex store Honey Birdette sexing up breast cancer for profit, utilising the logo of breast cancer charity McGrath Foundation to lend legitimacy to its sexual objectification of women.
In addition to sexualised representations of women in pink lingerie in their shopfront windows and social media pages, Honey Birdette promotional material included an image of a woman’s naked backside and legs in lingerie, and a porn-inspired instructional flyer for breast checking heavy on innuendo and accompanied by a pouting model examining her breasts.
Pairing a breast cancer charity with the sexual objectification of women is a classic example of 'pinkwashing' - a term used to describe companies that exploit breast cancer charities for profit and image enhancement.
After we contacted the McGrath Foundation, who confirmed the sex shop “had not acted in line with [their] agreement”, Honey Birdette was forced to pull sexualised images from its fundraiser.
However, Honey Birdette has continued to sexualise breast cancer, with McGrath Foundation logo displayed prominently alongside pornified representations of women’s bodies – and the McGrath Foundation have ignored us, endorsing Honey Birdette’s sexist and objectifying treatment of women.
We find it difficult to understand how a charity dedicated to women’s health could connect itself so publicly with a company that, according to global research, is complicit in harming it.
We are disappointed to learn that McGrath has ignored the harm and accepted the donation from Honey Birdette.
By accepting the donation and appearing to endorse the sex shop, McGrath has thrown young women under the bus. Honey Birdette routinely sexually objectifies women and exposes an all ages audience to this pornified content. Further, the company is the subject of multiple allegations of abuse, sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. McGrath's association with and implicit endorsement of Honey Birdette legitimises this conduct.
Backlash to McGrath endorsement of Honey Birdette
A number of women, including breast cancer survivors, have called out the McGrath Foundation for legitimising Honey Birdette sexual objectification of women:
"Please, please reconsider this partnership. Cancer isn't sexy, and association with sexiness is likely the last thing cancer sufferers and survivors need."
"You have a beautiful and respected brand. Why trash it?"
"The absolute last thing women with cancer, especially breast cancer, need is more pressure to sexualise their bodies for the gaze of men. This insistence that women must conform to pornified sexual stereotypes while sick and fighting for their lives is revolting. Shame."
"You’ll also be supporting a sex store known for its sexist and porn-themed advertising, and for exploiting young female staff who report a culture of bullying, sexual harassment and mistreatment. Why would you want to partner with such an unethical company that harms women?"
"This is terrible. As a BC "survivor" I am deeply saddened to see an unethical and corrupt company, Honey Birdette, exploiting this important cause in order to try to "wash" their company of their terrible reputation for exploitation of female staff. Honey Birdette are exploiting the memory of women who have not survived and it is sad to see the McGrath Foundation, which does so much good work, aiding them in this for what must be a very tiny monetary reward. Shame."
"How would Jane feel about her good name and family friendly persona being associated with these pornographers? Shame on you for reducing her legacy to this."
We hope that going forward, the McGrath Foundation will reconsider their partnership and endorsement of sex store Honey Birdette.