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Taking a stance for trans rights with Karhu

Five Karhu cans with different pronouns on their labels.
June 24, 2021

Read time 3 min

A Pride campaign by Finland’s number one beer brand Karhu and Reaktor Creative places trans rights front and center. “Changing the label on a can is nothing new, but doing it in a way that’s actually meaningful, topical, and brave is something that’s worthwhile,” says Katariina Harteela, Creative Director at Reaktor Creative.

From the outside, Finland often looks like a progressive nation, the happiest place on earth. But when it comes to trans rights, Finnish law and society continues to be discriminatory: Finland is the lone Nordic country to stipulate mandatory sterilization as a prerequisite for legal gender recognition. That’s a human rights violation – and one that has been condemned by many international bodies, including Amnesty International and the European Courts. 

To celebrate Pride Month this year, Karhu, the number one Finnish beer brand that’s also a staunch advocate of LGBTQ rights, wanted to support the trans cause and highlight trans rights to the Finnish public.

With a campaign conjured up by Reaktor Creative, in partnership with Helsinki Pride, Karhu will place gender pronouns – both the Finnish “hän” as well as its English equivalents “she/her” “he/him” and “they/them” – front and center on the brand’s most iconic product: the 0,3-liter beer can. In marketing materials, Karhu’s iconic bear logo will also be reimagined in the colors of the trans flag. 

 

A signal of support and an effort to educate

Karhu is a long-standing partner and sponsor of Helsinki Pride – and so is Reaktor. The new campaign from Reaktor Creative is a bold opening that takes this commitment one step further, bringing the important discussion on trans rights into people’s living rooms, parties, and saunas.

The campaign is both a signal of support – giving trans people and their stories the voice and visibility that Karhu has the platform to offer – as well as an effort to educate the wider public, helping to explain to cisgender people why stating one’s pronouns is an important act of allyship.

“Changing the label on a can is nothing new, but doing it in a way that’s actually meaningful, topical, and brave is something that’s worthwhile,” says Katariina Harteela, Creative Director at Reaktor Creative. “Karhu is again defending an important cause – just as it did when the brand became one of the earliest Pride partners years ago.”

“We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

Pronouns, plural, is a fairly new concept in Finland, where a gender-neutral catch-all pronoun “hän” is used instead of the English-language variations “she/her”, “he/him”, and “they/them”. While useful in some instances, the use of “hän” also means that gender identity can remain hidden in everyday conversation, leading to misgendering. Bringing back pronouns into the conversation with English-language alternatives can help change that.

“When I first held that can that stated my own pronouns (she/her), I knew this was something extraordinary,” says trans activist and face of the campaign, Mona Bling. “No other major brand in Finland has taken this clear a stance on trans rights.”

“Karhu stands for individual expression,” says Alexander Sneen, Vice President of Marketing at Sinebrychoff, the beverage company behind the Karhu brand. “We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

Join us on Clubhouse Friday July 2:

Karhu x Pride: Follow yourself – Being transgender in Finland

What are trans rights and why do they matter? What is it like to live as a trans person in Finland? Journalist Mona Bling and human rights educator Dakota Robin will host the official Pride program. The virtual Clubhouse event is in Finnish.

 

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