The stock image called “Man Looking at Other Woman” by photographer Antonio Guillem was named meme of the year and was one of the most widely shared memes in 2017. But now, the meme, which is better known as “distracted boyfriend,” has been ruled sexist by RO, the Swedish ad watchdog.
The watchdog made the ruling after it received complaints of the meme as it was used by Swedish internet service provider Bahnhof in an ad, reports the Guardian. Bahnhof’s version of the meme labeled the boyfriend “you,” the girlfriend “your current workplace,” and the girl on the street “Bahnhof.” Ro said that the meme objectified the two women by presenting them as workplaces while presenting the man as an individual:
“The advertisement objectifies women. It presents women as interchangeable items and suggests only their appearance is interesting . . . It also shows degrading stereotypical gender roles of both men and women and gives the impression men can change female partners as they change jobs.”
The watchdog also said the girl on the street in the meme was clearly a “sex object . . . unrelated to the advertisement, which is for recruiting salespeople, operating engineers, and a web designer.”
After the ruling was issued, Bahnhof released the following statement:
“Anyone familiar with the internet and meme culture knows how this meme is used and interpreted. Gender is usually irrelevant in the context. We explained meme culture to the ombudsman, but it chose to interpret the post differently.”
You can check out Bahnhof’s version of the “distracted boyfriend” meme below.