Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Pride Month has just started, and we have our first case of a brand bungling it in a video that was intended to support and embrace the LGBTQ community.
Ipsy, the beauty box subscription company that boasts more than 2.5 million subscribers and runs the popular Generation Beauty conferences, posted a video over the weekend. It featured various creators talking about what Pride means to them and what they find beautiful. The first speaker in the video was Cassandra Bankson, a beauty content creator with more than 800,000 YouTube subscribers. In it, she said: “I’m attracted to women. And there’s definitely a spectrum between trans women, between authentic cis-gendered women and everything in between. But at the same time I believe that love is beauty, and I can find that in many different places.” (The video has since been deleted, but an excerpt can be seen on Medium in a post by Phaylen Fairchild, an actor, filmmaker, and activist.)
At issue here, as Fairchild explains, is that Bankson’s statement in the video seems to suggest she believes that “trans women are not women.” Social media users were quick to condemn Ipsy, calling the video “transphobic” and “transmisogynistic.” Several criticized Ipsy for cashing in on Pride Month without actually hiring or, at the bare minimum, consulting with, transgender people before posting the video.
Kat Blaque, a YouTuber who frequently posts about her life as a trans woman, wrote in a Twitter thread: “...I want to say that @ipsy had every ability to edit out that line, but they not only kept it in, but they decided to put it at the forefront of the video. I’m going to say that that’s pretty clear evidence that this company doesn’t truly care for the LGBT community.”
So @Ipsy @ipsycare posted a transmisogynistic video for pride month referring to trans women and "authentic cisgendered women" and now they are deleting fb comments from trans folk calling them out on it.— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) June 2, 2018
An even worse look than your beige as fuck makeup, Ipsy.
So, @ipsy published a video today featuring several of my friends and @SincerelyCass11 who decided to describe her attraction to women as a spectrum between "Trans women and authentic cisgender women". I wanted to unpack a few things and offer my opinions about this.— (@kat_blaque) June 3, 2018
hoooooo man this @ipsy snafu is a great example of why brands should employ and work alongside queer people instead of just profiting off them for one month out of the year.— Tynan (@TynanBuck) June 2, 2018
Bankson issued an apology video on her Facebook page, as well as a written clarification a few hours later, acknowledging that she was sorry and admitting that she needed more education when speaking about trans people. In her first apology, she also made a gaffe by writing “biologically female,” for which she was called out again. According to GLAAD’s media reference guide, that phrase can be “reductive”; “assigned or designated male at birth” is the preferred way to write it when referring to transgender women. Reactions were mixed, with some people being supportive and some accusing her of continuing to “other” transgender women.
“I have been speaking to my trans friends to better understand how my ignorance behind common vocabulary hurt others. From my newfound understanding, that vocabulary sometimes has negative connotations tied to it that was used to hurt others in the past that I was not aware of. Although my intention was from love, I understand the impact hit differently,” she said in an email to Racked. “It hurts so vehemently to know that I caused pain to the very community I love and am attracted to, simply because of my ignorance.”
Ipsy, which was ultimately responsible for the contents of the video and how it was edited, made things worse for itself at first by deleting critical comments under the video and at one point telling a commenter, “We hear what you’re saying, but ask that you respect how our creators choose to identify themselves.”
Ipsy finally deleted the video and issued an apology to its 5 million Facebook, 2 million Instagram, and 750,000 Twitter followers, acknowledging it “missed the mark in a very big way. ... We’re looking at ways we can reduce the damage caused by the post and aftermath, and will make an announcement on this in the next 2 days.”
The brand also acknowledged in the comments section that it was wrong to delete comments and took suggestions for appropriate organizations to donate to. (Ipsy did not respond to Racked’s requests for comment.)
This all comes in the wake of Sephora announcing it would be holding free makeup classes for trans people, taught by transgender makeup artists. Milk Makeup, which has had inclusive messaging since its inception, also just released a glitter product and will be donating half of the proceeds to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City.