A Chinese advertisement for makeup wipes that linked a woman’s appearance to the likelihood of assault has been taken down and the company forced to apologise after a backlash over “victim-blaming”.
The advertisement, 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 hurriedly removes her makeup using the wipes. As the assailant grabs her from behind, the woman turns to show him her now makeup-free face, scaring off the would-be attacker with her natural complexion.
The advertisement 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 apologised twice, it initially defended the advertisement 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 that gained more than 30,000 likes.
Faced with a deepening public relations 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 apologise and will immediately take down the video.”
But the internet furore did not abate and Purcotton issued a longer apology on Monday.
The Weibo hashtag “Purcotton apology” received 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 more than 240 stores across China, selling products such as clothing, tissues, sanitary pads and nappies.
It is the latest company to be ensnared as more Chinese social media users have called out advertisements 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 apologised after internet commentators accused it of “fat-shaming” customers.
Plus-sized women’s clothes in its Chinese stores were labelled “rotten” and “extra rotten”, while sizes small and medium were labelled “skinny” and “beautiful”.
A Chinese Audi advertisement in 2017 was heavily criticised 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.
China makeup ad pulled for ‘victim-blaming’ The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Al Jazeera.