Women's day is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women around the globe. In South Africa, specifically, women's day is celebrated on August 9th, and is important to the women politically, economically, and culturally. This ad posted by BIC in South Africa sparked much controversy, as the ad that was originally targeted at women made controversial claims that were taken as the opposite of what Women's day is all about. Women's day is a day of empowerment for women across the world, and is important in the aspect of fighting for social justice. This ad was seen as sexist, misogynistic, and demeaning. BIC caught major backlash from the South American feminine community, and as a result had to send out an apology for their poorly planned marketing technique. Women's day is important in the aspect that it is a day dedicated to women and their achievements that have historically been hindered by the opposite sex through patriarchy and “glass ceilings” in the workplace. Knowing BIC is a pen company, one can assume that another one of their audiences were women in the workplace or other individuals advocating for women equality. Ironically this ad was interpreted as the opposite and was taken as offensive and sexist. A question that should be asked is why did BIC put out this ad on women's day if it had a possibility of being taken as offensive? Possibly, BIC is a sexist company ran by male leaders who didn't take into consideration the underlying message of the ad, or maybe the women and feminist advocates in South Africa took the ad the wrong way due to cultural differences between the American company and its South African sister sub division. Regardless of the true intentions of BIC, the ad posted by BIC for Women's day uses a picture of an African American woman to sympathize with its South African women audience as well as a slogan that could possibly be seen as controversial through certain viewpoints in order to acknowledge the importance of women's day and women's importance in today's culture. This ad could be received different by many people, but the question I plan to answer is: why did BIC release this ad specifically in this form? To understand why BIC made this ad the way they did, we must first look at the purpose of this ad and its rhetorical situation. The context of this ad is Women's day in South Africa in the year 2015. This ad was created in order to coincide with women's day and to potentially increase the sales of BIC with the female population. Culturally this ad didn't sit well due to its controversial slogans, but in hindsight BIC was trying to appeal to the South African women in the workforce. The audiences (women) relationship with the author (BIC) of the text limited the purpose of the text because the purpose of this text was taken out of context and actually displayed the opposite in the audience's eyes. This text does not effectively meet its purpose due to the fact that BIC's attempts to relate to the working female was taken negatively. The purpose of this text was to empower women, but BIC ended up scrutinizing the female worker by being misogynistic with the “Think like a man,” slogan thus negating the true meaning of the text. This mistake may be accredited to the patriarchal white collar workforce in the BIC industry, and the insensitivity of the company's ad makers. Essentially, the purpose of this ad was misinterpreted by the audience.
The audience of this specific ad was the women of South Africa on women's day. The audience could extend to every female around the world since women's day is a global day, so this would make females living outside of South Africa as a secondary audience. BIC tries to appeal to the empowering movement of women's day; however, BIC failed to construct this ad in a way to promote the empowerment of women and to hinder the misogyny in the work force. The women this ad is supposed to target value equality, parity, and civil rights. The subject of the text is meant to represent the working women of South Africa, but instead of representing these women, BIC ends up objectifying them in a way that could be seen as misogynistic. BIC tries to appeal to women by signifying the differences of women between men which is misconstrued and taken as offensive. BIC's slogans are objectifying in the way that they use insensitive wording to describe the woman worker. The ad says to “look like a girl”, and this could be seen as the sexualization of children and would be taken negatively by many women. The slogan “act like a lady” is sexist in the manner that it implies that all females should act like “ladies”. The term “lady” is a sexist one deriving from the gender roles that take women out of the workplace. The slogan “think like a man” implies that men have superior thinking patterns and that women are the inferior gender; however, the indication that this ad has proven to not be a true ad, adds to the argument that BIC could be seen as a patriarchal company. A “glass ceiling” is an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in the workplace that affects the prestige of women and holds women down to lower, non CEO positions. This ad is a result of the glass ceilings found in many firms and companies that inhibits women from reaching top positions. This glass ceiling effect is the opposite of what women's day is all about. BIC most likely didn't realize the repercussions of this ad, and didn't anticipate the negative backlash from the female community. This negative resonance between BIC and their targeted audience could be credited to the cultural differences of the BIC company and the women of south Africa, because BIC is most likely a male ran company whose experiences are nothing similar to that of a South African woman. The South African women did not end up relating to the BIC ad, and in turn reacted negatively enough to force BIC to apologize. BIC assumed their slogans made sense and were logical; however, they were presumptuous of false ideas and objectifying wording. The audience did not perceive the subject of the ad as intended, thus leading to negative feedback.
The main idea of this ad is to empower women in the workplace, and this idea is portrayed through the use of slogans and a relatable African American woman on the ad. The African American woman I used as ethos to strengthen the claims made by BIC by relating the South African women with the lady on the ad. This provides support for the ad because it is diverse and ethnically viable. The pathos used in this ad would be the slogans, but these hit the wrong emotions within the women targeted. Had the wording of the slogan been different, maybe the ad would have been perceived as a nice gesture by BIC and in return the female workers would be more inclined to purchase their products. Obviously the slogans of this ad are up for individual interpretation, but there will be bias by both the author and audience when deciphering the meaning of the ad.
The author of this ad, BIC, presents themselves as a pro-feminist entity by using the hashtag #HappyWomensDay. This hashtag is meant to represent the pro-women position the BIC company is trying to associate with their name. BIC wants to appeal to the feminine audience in order to increase sales because when it comes down to it, BIC is a company and thrives in the purchases of its consumers. If BIC were to create an add that sympathized with women on national women's day and portrayed themselves as a feminist entity, then they would predict more female consumers to buy their products. Sadly, BIC chose a poor selection of words that may be out dated, and in return they got a very negative response. There was a dissonance between BIC and their female audience, and this was probably unintentional. This is just an example of a poor connection being made between author and audience, because these two entities are on two separate pages. BIC uses stereotypes with their slogans by inferring girls as pretty, women as discipline, and men as thoughtful. BIC even stereotypes by having an African American woman on the cover of the add. This is intentional to relate to the South African population, but this does not mean BIC is prejudice but maybe just unthoughtful. IBC is a large company, and in the work place women tend to be second class citizens, so this reputation influences IBC's statement and is eventually viewed as negative.
To conclude, I'd like to answer the question stated earlier. I believe BIC made this ad the way it is because they tried too hard to relate the South African woman too much in a way that could be called stereotypical. BIC being a large company is most likely male led, and the misogynistic slogans of the ad tried to pry at the population of women in the lower divisions of work. One of the slogans was “work like a boss” not “be the boss”. BIC is stereotyping women as not being competent enough to hold executive position in large companies and also supports the gender roles enforced on many women today. This message is seen as sexist by many women and could have easily not been with a slight change in wording. The direct targeting of the audience was so rigid that it ended up upsetting the intended audience by capitalizing on cultural stereotypes. I believe BIC released this add in this specific form to relate to the lower division female workers, but the message went south when it included poorly chosen wording and stereotyping that upset the intended audience.
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