It should go without saying that one must never base a message of modern female empowerment on an antiquated Steve Harvey platitude, and yet that is a lesson Bic South Africa just learned the hard way.
The pen manufacturer attempted to celebrate National Women’s Day on social media with a Facebook meme of a be-suited woman urging her sisters to follow this formula for success: Look like a girl, Act like a lady, Think like a man, Work like a boss. Before detailing the subsequent outrage and apology cycle this message inspired, let’s delve deeper into the actual message here, and its implied meaning.
- Look like a girl. Because you’re not getting any younger, but you can pretend with makeup and fashion–or at least you should try, for the sake of those who have to look at you, i.e. men.)
- Act like a lady. Be a polite, malleable, agreeable, non-opinionated workplace approximation of Lady from Lady & The Tramp.
- Think like a man. Whatever you do, don’t think like a woman! Lol, imagine a woman succeeding without thinking in a way that is gendered—specifically, her opposite gender.
- Work like a boss. You’re obviously not in charge, because of the whole “being a woman” thing, but hey, dream a dream!
In the face of a robust, fired-up commentariat, the post was eventually taken down. Of course, this is the Internet, and not only was the damage already done, but the evidence was preserved to rile up further potential pen-wielders.
As The Guardian points out, the company also faced allegations of sexist marketing for producing an impossibly patronizing line of pink “for her” pens in 2012 that were “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand.” Ostensibly, one assumes, to address the plague of normal pens slipping through spindly ladyfingers—every female master penman’s daily nightmare.
After Bic South Africa deleted last Sunday’s ad, and then deleted a later post ham-fistedly explaining the original ad, the company went into pure apology mode. Hopefully, this time those in charge will realize that it’s their own outdated sensibilities, and not audience sensitivity, that explains their repeat problems with advertising to women.
[via The Guardian]