Since it emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal in October, #MeToo has been a juggernaut—a social media-based grassroots movement that has opened up conversations on sexual assault and harassment far beyond the A-list Hollywood circuit. Plenty of brands have taken the opportunity to tout their feminist ideals, but most have avoided blatantly appropriating the viral hashtag itself.
Most, but not all: The American beauty brand Hard Candy, sold exclusively at Walmart, applied for a trademark for #MeToo to sell cosmetics and fragrances on Oct. 20. (As with many trademark applications in waiting, this one went under the radar for months—until TMZ broke the story last week.) It’s a move that was at best misguided and at worst cravenly opportunistic, and one that appears to co-opt the movement that activist Tarana Burke started, sans hashtag, in 2006.
Hard Candy, owned by the Hollywood, Florida-based Falic Fashion Group, tried to backtrack on the trademark at first. CEO Jerome Falic told Refinery29 rather vaguely that he planned to donate the profits from the prospective #MeToo collection to some unnamed #MeToo organization. (The movement, as Refinery 29 notes, is not connected to one single organization or institution.)
The internet was not appeased by this promised gesture:
Now, thanks to public outrage, the brand is withdrawing its trademark application. Quartz has reached out to Hard Candy for comment and will update this post with any response. A statement sent to other press outlets says:
As a brand devoted to women since its inception, Hard Candy has and will continue to support women’s rights. Hard Candy has always quietly and proudly supported a non-profit organization that directly contributes to many women’s causes. When the trademark application for #MeToo was filed, one of our objectives was to bring greater awareness to this important and long overdue movement. We planned to donate 100% of all profits arising from this trademark to #MeToo. Based on several public responses, we have abandoned the application. We will continue to support the work of this watershed movement and other causes that respect the dignity of women and all people.