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A controversial commercial for makeup wipes has been pulled amid allegations that it victim blames survivors of sexual assault.
Purcotton, a Chinese company that manufactures makeup removing wipes, recently released a new commercial which features a young woman attempting to defend herself against pending assault by removing her makeup.
In the commercial, a young woman nervously walks down the street at night while a man wearing a ball cap and face mask walks behind her. The woman begins to panic as the man gets closer while ominous music plays in the background. The woman then reaches into her bag to reveal a package of Purcotton makeup wipes and begins wiping her face. As the masked assailant touches the woman’s shoulder, the audience now sees that without her makeup, the woman is now portrayed by a male actor, dressed in the same clothes.
The male actor continues wiping his face with makeup before asking the assailant, “What’s up brother?” The shock causes the attacker to run away out of fear of the woman’s mistaken appearance.
According to their website, Purcotton is owned by Winner Medical Group, and has more than 20 million customers and 240 stores across China.
The advertisement was shared to Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, with the hashtags, #anti-stalking and #WhatToDoWhenStalked. The commercial immediately drew backlash from social media users who called the advertisement “disgusting” and “wrong.” Thousands of Weibo users expressed their outrage to Purcotton, prompting many to suggest a boycott of the company and its products.
“Poor taste and full of malice. The idea is dark and an insult to women,” one Weibo user wrote.
“The brand's main audience is women, but it still uses women's fear as a selling point and promotes victim-blaming,” another said of the company’s egregious misstep.
China’s Women’s News condemned the advertisement for “demonizing the victim” and noted that Purcotton’s video objectified women by inferring that a woman’s appearance somehow invites sexual assault.
“Purcotton's advert is suggesting women would be targeted by attackers at night because you put makeup on. Without makeup, the attackers would be disgusted and therefore no attacks would happen,' the outlet wrote to their Weibo account.
Despite the public’s outrage, Purcotton initially defended the commercial, calling it a creative way to demonstrate the “cleaning function of the product.”
But over the weekend, amid the ongoing controversy, Purcotton released a second apology and announced the advertisement would be removed.
“We have set up a team to hold people to account for the problem,” the company said in a statement shared to their Weibo account. “In the meantime, we will improve content production and the review process to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”