A South African pen manufacturer has apologised after its “empowering” message to women urging them to look like a girl and think like a man caused outrage on social media.
Bic South Africa posted the ad on its Facebook page to celebrate national women’s day. Showing a smiling woman in a suit with arms folded, it read: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss #HappyWomensDay.”
The post was eventually deleted as commentators expressed disgust. “Look like a girl?’ Because the infantilisation of women and the sexualisation of children is exactly the kind of blurred line we need!”, read one, the Sunday Times in Johannesburg reported.
“Why am I expected to look like a child? Why am I expected to see the world through a masculine lens? Why am I expected to ‘think like a man’ but not expected to ‘act like a man’ on my so-called manly thoughts?” wrote another.
what fresh hell is this pic.twitter.com/KctXjvWAHp— Caroline CriadoPerez (@CCriadoPerez) August 11, 2015
Among those taking to Twitter to condemn the advert, feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for a female face on UK banknotes, tweeted: “What fresh hell is this” and “srsly, ‘think like a man’...*stabs eyes out with bic pen*”.
Commentators were swift to point out it was not the first time the company has faced accusations of sexist marketing. Its pink “for her” pens in 2012 “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” were derided by, among many others, the US comedian Ellen Degeneres.
The company deleted the original ad posted on Sunday and sought to explain that the quotes, taken from a “women in business” blog site, and were meant “in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women”.
When that failed to appease, it removed that post, too, and replaced it with the apology: “Let’s start out by saying we’re incredibly sorry for offending everybody – that was never our intention, but we completely understand where we’ve gone wrong. This post should never have gone out. The feedback you have given us will help us ensure that something like this will never happen again, and we appreciate that”.
This article was written by Caroline Davies, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 11th August 2015 15.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010