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Bic’s Epic Fail: Gender Equality Lessons to Be Learned

Published by CultNoise magazine.


For a writer like me who largely writes opinion pieces on social issues and injustices, epic fails like this are a gift. An insulting, offensive, rage-inducing gift, but a gift nonetheless.

This week, Bic Stationary (South Africa) just about managed to offend every woman and feminist who was made aware of their catastrophic, sexist blunder as they posted this backwards and insensitive advertisement on their Facebook and Twitter pages on Women’s Day:

Image courtesy of Bic South Africa’s Facebook page.

It’s hard to know where exactly to begin when discussing how many things are wrong with this ad. So, let’s go in the logical order and start the breakdown with the first line:

“Look like a girl.”

Considering that the second line in this misogynistic riddle includes the word “woman”, Bic’s first offence is immediately implying that for women to be successful in business, they shouldn’t look like women, but instead they should look like “girls”. So, essentially, not only is Bic portraying women as mere sex objects and “pretty things” that are only in the workplace as something for men to look at, and condoning the sexualisation of women in the workplace — an environment that is supposed to be professional and free from all forms of sexual harassment — but Bic is also sexualising female children by implying that women are more attractive to men when the look like underage “girls”.

Good one, Bic. It’s almost impressive how they managed to convey so much sexism and misogyny into one short sentence. (Seriously, who allowed this ad to run?)

“Act like a lady.”

The next helping of Bic’s specific brand of misogyny comes in the form of the medieval “be ladylike” argument. What exactly does “act like a lady” mean, Bic?

Does it mean women who wish to have successful careers should: always cover up, always cross their legs, wear skirts of a respectable length, never talk about sex, never swear or use profanity, only speak when spoken to, always make themselves “pretty” for the men of the office, and/or be the epitome of femininity? This insulting and backwards remark promoting strict and outdated gender role expectations completely undermines the incredibly ironic use of the #HappyWomensDay tagline by implying that women can only be “real” women if they are feminine, and by insinuating that women should behave in a certain way in accordance with what is considered “ladylike”. Nice move for sexual equality there, Bic. I (sarcastically) applaud you.

“Think like a man.”

Just when you thought this ad couldn’t get any more terrible, Bic managed to top their last insult by, this time, telling women to “think like men”. So, Bic, why exactly should women try to think like men?

Are women’s minds full of silly, irrational thoughts about rainbows, unicorns and other “girly” things? Are women incapable of thinking of anything intelligent, creative, ambitious or worthwhile? Should we reprogram our brains to be more masculine because that’s the only way to succeed in education and business? Silly me, I don’t know how my tiny little lady brain has got me this far in life. If only someone had told me sooner that I should thinking like a man – thank you for educating me, Bic. (Is my sarcasm too subtle?)

Image courtesy of Blogger.

And last but not least:

“Work like a boss.”

While this statement could still be considered sexist as it implies that women do not already work “like bosses”, this is just about the only part of the Bic ad that isn’t wildly offensive and misogynistic, but I think the rest of the ad more than makes up for that.

So, to sum up, Bic’s golden advice to women is to: look like a child because your colleagues find it more attractive; get rid of your silly lady thoughts and reprogram your brain into a masculine one that will produce thoughts and ideas worth having; fit the strict mould of medieval ladylike expectations; and “work like a boss” because apparently, women aren’t doing that already.

I personally preferred Stabilo UK‘s critique on the insensitive Bic ad posted on their Twitter page which addressed exactly what Bic did wrong by saying:

“Look how you want. Act how you want. Think how you want. Work like a boss.”

Understandably, Bic’s campaign was followed by a huge public backlash. How a reputable company with seemingly intelligent and forward-thinking employees didn’t anticipate this outrage is definitely a question worth asking. But Bic did remove the offensive post and issue an apology for their, quite frankly, embarrassing and damaging behaviour.

While Bic did apologise for their embarrassing epic fail, a half-hearted, brief and flippant apology just wasn’t enough for some Facebook users who still maintain that “the real problem is the mentality behind the creation of the advert which believes women should invest in their looks”.

This really was a face-palm, audible-sigh moment for everyone who believes in and works to promote equality of the sexes. But the encouraging thing about this story is that the volume of the worldwide public outcry supporting women and feminism on this issue was so loud that Bic were forced to remove their post and apologise for their reckless, offensive and misogynistic behaviour.

We can only hope that the company will learn from this mistake, critique their views on women in the workplace and at least attempt to drag themselves into the 21st century and replace their mentality of misogyny and sexism with one of equality and social justice.

What do you think of the Bic ad? Were you offended? Let us know in the comments section below.

Featured image courtesy of Alias 0591 via Flickr

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