China make-up ad pulled for ‘victim-blaming’

BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese advert for make-up wipes which linked a woman’s appearance to the likelihood of assault has been taken down, and the company forced to apologise, after a backlash over “victim-blaming”.

The advert, released last week by Chinese cotton products manufacturer Purcotton, showed a woman walking home at night followed by a male stalker.

As he gains on her, she removes her make-up using the wipes and transforms into a man, scaring off the would-be attacker.

It was widely panned on Chinese social media, as users on the Twitter-like service Weibo complained it made light of a serious issue and vowed to boycott the brand’s products.

“Isn’t this simply insulting the female sex? Making an advert out of a woman being stalked? This is a crime,” wrote one user, in a comment that amassed more than 50,000 likes.

Although the company has since apologised twice, it initially defended the advert as a “creative concept”, prompting further outrage. “To use women’s worst fears and pain as the subject of an advert, and then defend it loudly – do you even have a brain?” read one comment which gained over 30,000 likes.

Faced with a deepening PR disaster, Purcotton wrote on Weibo on Friday that it attached “high importance” to the affair, and added “as for the discomfort the video’s content caused to everyone, we deeply apologise and will immediately take down the video.”

But the Internet furore did not abate and Purcotton issued a longer apology on Monday. The Weibo hashtag “Purcotton apology” had gained 500 million views as of yesterday morning.

Even state media weighed in on the controversy.

“It beautifies the criminal and smears the victim, and is full of prejudice, malice and ignorance,” the official newspaper of the state-run women’s rights group All-China Women’s Federation wrote in a Friday commentary.