A controversial advertisement for makeup removal wipes went viral this week as it aroused hot debate over claims it rationalizes the devilry of sexual assault.
Owned by industrial leader Winner Medical Group, Chinese cotton product brand Purcotton released a promotional video for its new makeup removal wipe on Douyin (Chinese version of TikTok). Tagged with #Plottwit, #anti-stalking, and #WhatToDoWhenStalked, the video features a woman walking down the street at night and a suspicious masked man following her for a long time. Looking concerned, the woman comes up with a plan to scare away the masked man by using Purcotton wipe to remove her makeup. When the man approaches her, she turns her head and becomes an ugly man.
Purcotton initially defended itself by saying the advertisement was purely a creative way to stress the product’s powerful cleaning function. However, social media users did not buy it and decried that the video blamed victims in a sexual assault incident and many have called for a boycott of Purcotton products.
China Women Federation backed China Women’s News also denounced Purcotton’s behavior on social media, saying it “demonizes the victim.”
“Sexual assault is a very serious matter, but the company used so-called ‘creative’ rhetoric to rationalize the criminals and demonize the victims. This advertisement is full of prejudice, malice, and ignorance. Women are consumers but not consumer goods,” said China Women’s Newsin its social media post.
As the calls for the brand boycott grew stronger online, the company removed the video from its accounts and issued a second letter of apology on Jan. 10. However, the firm spent a page and half of its double-paged letter praising the achievements of Purcotton.
“This is the first apology letter I saw that has only 1% apology sentiment and 99% bragging,” a Weibo user commented online.
This isn’t the first time that a Chinese company’s advertising campaign has been accused of sexism. RT-Mart apologized after one of its stores displayed a size chart that labeled plus size women who are wearing XXL clothes as “rotten” and “terrible” while referring to women who wear small and medium-sized clothing as “beautiful.”