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Sony China roasted for ad that implies professional-grade cameras are too complex for women

A social media post from the Chinese operation of Japanese electronics and entertainment behemoth Sony has seriously backfired as the Chinese internet lit up to accuse the company of using gender stereotypes to sell products to its male customers.

The controversial post, which appeared on Sony China’s official Weibo account on February 15, contains an innocuous photo of various camera lenses by Sony and a description that reads, “When your girlfriend quizzes you about lipstick shades again, just fire back with questions about these lenses.”

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The ad quickly went viral on Weibo, eliciting a deluge of criticism (in Chinese). Some people slammed the post for perpetuating gender bias, arguing that the description implied that photography — as a profession or hobby — is beyond women’s capabilities or interests because they naturally gravitate to beauty products rather than camera gadgets.

“Speaking for myself, most professional photographers that I know are women and they are killing it at work. They are no less knowledgeable than men when it comes to high-end cameras and their accessories,” one Weibo user wrote.

Another female owner of Sony equipment commented, “I spent thousands of yuan on your cameras in 2019. Turns out you think I don’t know how to use my stuff!”

Others pointed out that the ad also portrayed men in a “stereotypical” light. Citing the case of Lǐ Jiāqí 李佳琦, a Chinese lifestyle blogger and influencer who is dubbed the “lipstick king” for his top-notch expertise in cosmetics products, quite a few women confessed that the male beauty guru certainly knows more about lipstick shades than them.

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The Japanese firm has since deleted the post from its Weibo account, but it has yet to issue the apology that many people asked for. However, on February 20, Sony China posted four photos of  female photographers. The caption reads, “We appreciate your serenity. We admire your excellent skills. More importantly, we cherish your longtime companionship.” Probably in anticipation of a continuous backlash, the account disabled comments from Weibo users on the post. But it replied to itself in the comment section, noting that the employee who wrote the earlier sexist post had been “forced to take a one-year leave.”

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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