China make-up ad pulled for ‘victim-blaming’
BEIJING — A Chinese advert for make-up wipes that linked a woman’s appearance to the likelihood of assault has been taken down, and the company forced to apologize, after a backlash over “victim-blaming.”
The advert, released last week by Chinese cotton products manufacturer Purcotton, showed a woman walking home at night followed by a male stalker.
As he gains on her, she removes her make-up using the wipes and transforms into a man, scaring off the would-be attacker.
It was widely panned on Chinese social media, as users on the Twitter-like service Weibo complained it made light of a serious issue and vowed to boycott the brand’s products.
“Isn’t this simply insulting the female sex? Making an advert out of a woman being stalked? This is a crime,” wrote one user, in a comment that amassed more than 50,000 likes.
Although the company has since apologized twice, it initially defended the advert as a “creative concept,” prompting further outrage.
“To use women’s worst fears and pain as the subject of an advert, and then defend it loudly — do you even have a brain?” read one comment which gained over 30,000 likes.
Faced with a deepening PR disaster, Purcotton wrote on Weibo on Friday that it attached “high importance” to the affair, and added, “as for the discomfort the video’s content caused to everyone, we deeply apologize and will immediately take down the video.”
But the internet furor did not abate and Purcotton issued a longer apology on Monday.
The Weibo hashtag “Purcotton apology” had gained 500 million views as of Tuesday morning.
Even state media weighed in on the controversy.
“It beautifies the criminal and smears the victim, and is full of prejudice, malice, and ignorance,” the official newspaper of the state-run women’s rights group All-China Women’s Federation wrote in a Friday commentary.
The Purcotton brand, owned by Winner Medical Group, operates over 240 stores across China, selling products such as clothing, tissues, sanitary pads, and diapers.
It is the latest company to be ensnared as more and more Chinese social media users have called out adverts deemed sexist in recent years, a trend that major international brands such as Ikea and Audi have also fallen foul of.
Last November, the Taiwanese supermarket chain RT-Mart apologized after internet commentators accused it of “fat-shaming” customers.
Plus-sized women’s clothes in its Chinese stores were labeled “rotten” and “extra rotten,” while sizes small and medium were labeled “skinny” and “beautiful”.
A Chinese Audi advert in 2017 was heavily criticized for showing a bride being physically inspected at the aisle by her future mother-in-law, which drew comparisons to inspecting livestock or used cars.
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