The handwriting was on the wall for pen maker Bic, who has apologized after rolling out an advertisement in South Africa, directed at women, telling them to “think like a man.” The company, based out of France, received a cascade of online backlash after celebrating National Women’s Day by introducing what was deemed to be a sexist and insensitive advertisement.
Writes NBC News on Aug. 13: “A company famous for its pens marked a public holiday honoring women in South Africa with a Facebook post urging: ‘Think like a man.’ Amid a storm of protest that the ad was sexist, Bic South Africa retracted the post and issued an apology.”
The ad, which showed a smiling African American woman in a power suit, implored women to “Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss.”
Twitter and Facebook lit up with harsh comments directed at Bic. Reuters News Service reports: “Feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for a female face to be put on British banknotes, was among those who expressed their indignation on Twitter.” She wrote:
What fresh hell is this? Seriously? ‘Think like a man’ … *stabs eyes out with bic pen*
Bic South Africa took to its Facebook page this week to issue an apology and a pledge: “Let’s start out by saying we’re incredibly sorry for offending everybody — that was never our intention, but we completely understand where we’ve gone wrong. This post should never have gone out. The feedback you have given us will help us ensure that something like this will never happen again, and we appreciate that.”
Bic’s ad was released on the anniversary of a 1956 women’s march protesting South Africa’s white minority rule. After receiving some initial blowback, Bic at first breezed over their error, writing that they “borrowed” the slogan, and therefore could wash their hands of it.
“We are sorry we offended but are not sorry for our ad because it came from another website which means it’s not really our fault. We say we are for the empowerment of women but our product range and consistent messaging around products for women reveals the exact opposite.”
After people started poking holes in that pseudo-apology, Bic issued their more contrite statement above. This is not the first time however that Bic found itself having to put pen to paper in an apology.
Adds the CS Monitor: “In 2012, it launched a new line of its standard ‘Cristal’ pen, the new model labeled ‘for her,’ with a sleeker design, and in muted pastels. Bic Cristal For Her pens are still for sale on Amazon. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres joked at the time that the pens are ‘built strong enough for a man, but simple enough that even a woman can understand how to use them.’”