Updated: Mic Mac Mall apologies for back to school ad campaign

Jacob
Jacob Boon
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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

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  • Dee
    August 23, 2013 - 21:46

    When did back to school shopping become something that would make a girl uneducated? It is normally girls who are excited to buy clothing and since there are 21 women's stores, 14 unisex stores and 3 men's stores in the mall I would guess females would be the mall's target audience. Hence why no guys. Not only that did anyone let the ads run long enough for the campaign to include guys? Who knows if there were ads featuring guy cartoon characters. Also can someone answer this...how did this woman get all of this...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.” from a 30 second ad that are CARTOONS? This is what I got from it...."The characters in these ads are excited about going to get back to school clothes and they are smart enough to compare and relate these tasks to academic studies. And they have a sense of humour." My favorite class is shop....AKA wood working class. That is clever! Also I would probably guess that a FEMALE was on the project for the ad campaign. Is she uneducated? I am a proud woman who has made something of herself...watching TV, listening to music and hanging out at the mall did not make me less engaged, uninterested in my education and stupid. What would have done those things would have been my parents not caring about my schooling, not caring if I had any respect for myself and holding me back from the things I was interested in..AKA fashion and art.

  • fashuhnsuki
    August 23, 2013 - 20:42

    I guess I am sensitive about this because I wasn't the book smart girl...I was the creative girl. I was the girl that was called stupid and bullied because I was wearing fashions a year before everyone else did. I was the one who was laughed at because I was going to do something with my art and love for fashion. I was told I would be sitting on a street corner bumming for money; that I wouldn't be anything or have anything. This came from my peers and adults. So when I heard the claims about the TV ads for the Mic Mac Mall it made me angry! If telling girls that a hobby or something you enjoy outside of traditional education makes you flaky, uninterested in your education, lazy and ditzy then I guess I am an un-empowered woman! My love for fashion and beauty got me published in Elle Canada Magazine. I own a successful freelance business. A full time job as a graphic designer. My love for fashion allowed me to create my fashion that blog that I get to share with people all over the world and posting an outfit on social media got me in touch with a makeup company that hopefully will bring me more future opportunities! My love for fashion has given me opportunities that these scholars are preaching women should have! So if knowing how to mix patterns, posting sales on my fashion facebook page for women to save their hard earned money, starting a FREE personal shopper service for busy women makes me an un-empowered, dumb, un-establish, oppressed, stupid, un-engaged and uneducated women...I guess that is the new success is the definition for all the above. So I stand proud and yell out loud....SMART GIRLS LOVE FASHION! #patternsareascience

  • Jay
    August 23, 2013 - 06:37

    Look; I'm all for not ridiculing and stereotyping people! What I cannot stand, even moreso, however, is the HYPOCRACY of our society. We see verizon ads showing a really stupid middle-age and older man (who is obviously a charicature of "every-day dad"), acting as if the concept of wireless internet is beyond his comprehension, even though he dresses like a mid-level executive. I find these ads infuriating--not because they exist--but because they are rampant in the media. I say what's good for the goose is good for the gander, so smarten up Western society/Western media; It's not OK to take pot shots at any segment of society! Shame on you all.

    • chief wiggam
      August 24, 2013 - 15:15

      nice point. no one ever mentions how they portray the dads. the ones who usually pay for shopping. i.e. for their live in daughters, child support,spousal support.

  • Kristina
    August 22, 2013 - 17:24

    Seriously!!! The ads are meant to be fun. There are lots of ads out there that are grossly offensive to men and women both. These don't even come close!

  • Jimmy Williams
    August 22, 2013 - 17:07

    These ads are clever and funny ... the only mistake they made was to not put one boy in there. Put a boy in there and you have a great ad campaign. That said, since when is it sexist to target a narrow demographic? I'm sure they have statistics showing that girls spend more on clothes than boys. So the campaign was aimed at teenage girls - big deal. Further, when trying to determine if an act is sexist, look for the intent. Is there intentional malice against females here? Clearly not. This controversy is trivial.

  • Diana
    August 22, 2013 - 15:02

    The complaints about the ads are pathetic. I think they are very cute and do not discriminate against females.

  • Gwen Atkinson
    August 22, 2013 - 13:56

    I find it highly interesting that it is only girls that are depicted.... no guys. Mic Mac might have an argument if there were guys too. But there's not. Soooo...... I will not be shopping MicMac. If this kind of advertising upsets you, I suggest you protest with your feet .... and march away from MicMac Mall.