Pen manufacturer Bic has sparked outrage on social media after posting a controversial advertisement intended to celebrate South Africa’s National Women’s Day, the Guardian reported Tuesday. “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss #HappyWomensDay,” the ad read, and featured a smiling woman in a business suit.
Bic South Africa posted the “empowering” message Sunday to its Facebook page in honor of the country's day of observance celebrating women. After a backlash on Twitter and Facebook ensued, Bic removed the advertisement and issued a statement apologizing, saying in part that it had gotten the message from a Women in Business blog site. “We can assure you that we meant it in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory toward women,” said the original apology statement, posted on Facebook, the Sunday Times in Johannesburg reported. “We took the quote from a 'Women In Business' blog site. The blog site explains the quote and what its intentions were when it was written. Bic believes in celebrating women and the powerful contribution women make to our society."
— The Guardian (@guardian) August 11, 2015
Sarah Taylor, the author of the Women In Business blog post, explained the meaning behind the message.
“Thinking like a man aids you to achieve a professional standard in the business world," Taylor wrote. "This is because women who know how to position themselves are more successful. Sheer nerve and real guts will get your further than talent, which is sad because those with real talent go unnoticed; but let’s face it, it is the truth.”
However, Facebook users were not all accepting of Bic’s apology. "And somehow you did not notice that the blog itself is filled with misogyniostic [sic] rubbish? Your ability to reason doesn't absolve you from responsibility,” one commenter wrote, the Sunday Times in Johannesburg reported.
Bic South Africa ultimately deleted the original apology and replaced it with a different statement that simply apologized for the advertisement and said it should not have gone out at all. “Okay. That's better,” wrote one Facebook user, commenting on the new apology. “But you shouldn't need feedback to show you which direction your moral compass should be pointing. The advert was blatantly sexist, and even if it was unintentional, people who do not see that it was problematic really should not be working in advertising.”
Bic South Africa is not new to controversy. In 2012, the pen manufacturer came under fire for sexist marketing with its pink “for her” pens, “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand.”