A sample of two of Mic Mac Mall's new ads, which are causing harsh online criticism about the way they depict young women.
Mic Mac Mall’s back to school ad campaign that has drawn criticism for being sexist are being pulled.
The brightly coloured ads feature illustrations of young female shoppers, and contain phrases such as “Mixing patterns – now that’s a science!” and “Social Studies? Does posting my new boots on Facebook count?”
The campaign’s depiction of female students has been met with some sharp criticism online.
But in a statement released Thursday afternoon by marketing director Rebecca Logan, the mall is now in the process of pulling all of the ads off of radio, TV, newspapers, billboards and online. She said they “are sincerely sorry for offending its customers.”
“We’ve heard what our customers have to say and we understand why you’re angry. It was never intended to be offensive,” Logan said in the statement. “Because we want to regain your trust and show how much we care for our community and girls’ education, we plan to donate $5,000 to a local organization that focuses on empowering girls. We’ll announce the group we choose by early next week. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from our community about which organizations we should consider.”
The campaign’s depiction of female students has been met with sharp criticism online.
“Your back to school ad campaign is kind of humiliating,” tweeted one local resident.
"You would think that 'girls are dumb but love shopping!!!' pitch would have gotten questioned at SOME point, but no,” wrote another.
“The intent of this campaign was to generate awareness and excitement for back to school shopping,” wrote Logan Tuesday. “The concept was to correlate school related subjects to shopping and our strong social media presence in a humorous and light hearted manner.”
That response doesn’t sit well with some, who don’t find anything humourous about the advertisements.
“If there wasn’t a daily struggle for women to establish themselves…maybe it would be funny,” says Rachael-Dawn Craig. “Oppression is not funny. Sexism is not funny. For those of us fighting this every day, it’s not funny.”
Craig is a Dalhousie neuroscience graduate, with several published works to her name. Currently, she works as an instructional designer, blending online and classroom curriculums together for a number of clients. Needless to say, she takes issue with the idea that girls aren’t interested in education.
“It latches on to a very old trope that’s harmful to women,” she says. “The characters in these ads aren’t just interested in shopping, they’re stupid. They’re not engaged. They’re not academic. They don’t have any interest beyond what they look like.”
Craig also tutors many young women entering university, and says these sorts of stereotypes strongly impact how students learn.
“One of the biggest struggles there is a sense that they can’t do it,” she says. “That culture, that math is hard and girls can’t do it, is exactly the thing that we’re talking about.”
– with files from Metro Halifax