China’s JD.com kills sexist make-up promotion after online backlash

  • ‘If you do not put on lipstick, how are you different from a man?’ backfires amid accusations of making fun of women
  • JD.com said 1,000 boxes featuring offending slogan were sent to consumers
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 10:59am

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has apologised for sexist cosmetics advertising slogans printed on its delivery boxes.

Photos of the boxes appeared on Tuesday morning on China’s Twitter-like service Weibo with a marketing slogan that read: “If you do not put on lipstick, how are you different from a man?” Widespread condemnation and a consumer backlash quickly followed.

“A cosmetics website that wants to gain attention by making fun of women will not succeed,” wrote one Weibo user. “It doesn’t want any female clients then.”

Another posted a photo of a placard held by a woman during the Taipei Gay Pride March in Taiwan at the weekend that read: “I’m beautiful regardless of whether I put on make-up.” That slogan was a response to Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je’s comments that some women in Taiwan leave home without make-up, and look “frightening”.

China’s sexism surfaces after bus plunges into river

On Tuesday afternoon, JD.com’s cosmetics department posted on Weibo that about 300,000 boxes with the offending tag line had been made and 1,000 were mailed. The company said it would change all the boxes with that tag line and would compensate customers who received a box with one make-up product.

“JD.com’s cosmetics business is still developing, and the slogan is the product of solely pursuing sales and marketing, and overlooking correct attitudes,” JD.com said. “We will deal with the people in charge, improve the inspection process and prevent such incidents from happening again.”

Women face deeply ingrained sexism in China, and that can surface in the most unlikely of places. A bus accident in Chongqing, southwest China, on Sunday sparked sexist comments on social media demanding women be barred from driving after reports claimed that a woman “wearing heels” was driving her car in the wrong direction and forced the bus to veer off a bridge into the Yangtze River. Chinese media reported nine people died in the accident.

The term “leftover women”, which has gained currency in China in recent years and is used to describe women who have reached a certain age and are still single, is yet another example of casual sexism in everyday life.