BEIJING: A Chinese advertisement for cosmetic wipes that linked a woman’s appearance to the possibility of assault was removed, and the company was forced to apologize after a backlash over “blaming the victim”.
The advertisement, released by Chinese cotton product manufacturer Purcotton, last week showed a woman walking home at night followed by a male stalker.
When he wins it, she removes her makeup using the napkins and turns into a man, scaring a potential attacker.
It was widely criticized on Chinese social media, with users of the Twitter-like Weibo service complaining that it was highlighting a serious problem and pledging to boycott the brand’s products.
“Isn’t this just an insult to the female sex? Making an advertisement about a woman being stalked? This is a crime,” one user wrote, in a comment that garnered more than 50,000 likes.
Although the company has apologized twice since then, it initially defended the ad as a “creative concept”, which led to further outrage.
“To use women’s worst fears and pain as the subject of an advertisement, then defend them out loud – do you even have a mind?” Read 1 comment garnered over 30,000 likes.
In the face of a worsening public relations disaster, Purcotton wrote on Weibo Friday that it attached “great importance” to the issue, adding, “Regarding the discomfort the video content has caused to everyone, we deeply apologize and we will remove the video immediately.”
But the internet hype didn’t subside and Purcotton issued a longer apology on Monday.
Weibo’s hashtag “Purcotton” had 500 million views as of Tuesday morning.
Even state media have influenced the controversy.
“It beautifies the criminal and disfigures the victim, and it is full of prejudice, hatred and ignorance,” the official newspaper of the state-run women’s rights group across China wrote in a comment Friday.
The Winner Medical Group-owned Purcotton brand operates 240 stores across China, selling products such as apparel, wipes, sanitary napkins and baby diapers.
It is the latest company to be trapped as more and more Chinese social media users have called for ads deemed sexist in recent years, a trend that major global brands like Ikea and Audi have fallen for.
Last November, the Taiwanese supermarket chain RT-Mart apologized after online commentators accused it of “slandering” customers.
Large-sized women’s clothing in its Chinese stores were described as “rotten” and “very rotten”, while small and medium sizes were described as “skinny” and “beautiful.”
An Audi Chinese advertisement in 2017 was heavily criticized for showing a bride undergoing a physical inspection in the driveway by her future mother-in-law, who made comparisons to check cattle or used cars.