Costa Coffee, the world’s second-largest coffee chain after Starbucks, is facing boycott calls after using an image of a topless transgender cartoon woman with double mastectomy scars on a mobile store.
The image, which appeared on a Costa Express van in the UK, features a blue-haired person in a surfing pose, topless, with prominent scarring from breast removal surgery.
As the image went viral, so did the hashtag #BoycottCostaCoffee, which was trending on Twitter throughout the week.
“The cartoon-like picture of a young woman who has had her breasts surgically removed is shocking and irresponsible,” Maya Forstater, who is on the board of Sex Matters, a human-rights organisation that campaigns for clarity on sex in law and policy, told the UK’s Telegraph. “Young women are being sold a lie that if they have their breasts removed and take hormones they can become men, or at least avoid being women.”
Helen Joyce, the director of advocacy for human-rights organisation Sex Matters, told the newspaper, “It’s disgustingly irresponsible of Costa to suggest-sell – even glorify – mental distress, bodily dissociation and self-harm among teenage girls.”
“Costa presumably thinks it’s being ‘inclusive’ with this messaging; in fact it’s helping to fuel a social contagion and medical scandal masquerading as a social-justice movement,” Joyce added.
Could you kindly explain why you are glorifying irreversible surgery performed on healthy breasts of women for a mental health condition? pic.twitter.com/9NyFPYj9J3
— James Esses (@JamesEsses) July 31, 2023
Laurence Fox, leader of the U.K.’s populist-right Reclaim Party, tweeted an edited bloody version of the image that includes a scarred forearm, often seen in people who have had sex change surgeries — and a penis-like creation on the person’s genital region.
Coffee sellers and high priests in the celebration of child mutilation.
Anyone I see with that blood red cup is encouraging children to irreversibly destroy their healthy bodies.
Pure evil. pic.twitter.com/LZRSc1GV0I
— Laurence Fox (@LozzaFox) August 1, 2023
Despite the massive backlash other companies, especially Bud Light, have faced, the coffee giant has defended the image. The company claimed that the mural celebrates “inclusivity.”
“At Costa Coffee we celebrate the diversity of our customers, team members and partners,” Costa said in a statement to the Telegraph. “We want everyone that interacts with us to experience the inclusive environment that we create, to encourage people to feel welcomed, free and unashamedly proud to be themselves. The mural, in its entirety, showcases and celebrates inclusivity.”