You would be forgiven for thinking that archaic stereotypes of women being in the kitchen were a thing of the past? Think again. This week, Uber posted a controversial comment on social media in Bangalore. The status was in relation to ‘Wife Appreciation Day’, and urged husbands to ‘let your wife take a day off from the kitchen’ and order the new Uber Eats service.
Immediately, and justifiably, this caused uproar on social media, with Uber taking down the message and apologising very quickly. Uber’s chief brand ambassador Bozoma Saint John hailed it as ‘completely unacceptable’.
This, unfortunately, is not the first time in recent history that sexism has reared its ugly head in marketing. Issue 86 of the journal ‘New Formations’ tackles everyday sexism, arguing that because sexism is widely accepted as a thing of the past, modern iterations of sexism disguises itself under the pretence of being retro or ironic, two terms that most millennials will be very familiar with.
This is a belief that is echoed by Alissa Quart, who wrote the article entitled ‘Hipster sexism’ in the New York magazine. She defines the term as ‘the objectification of women but in a manner that uses mockery, quotation marks, and paradox’. In the article she refers to song lyrics using derogatory terms for women in an affectionate manner, TV shows and films showing the humiliation of women in an amusing way, and other forms of 21st century media using irony and sarcasm to make sexism socially acceptable.
The message that Uber released may have been trying to be tongue-in-cheek, but is this sort of wink-at-the-audience sexism healthy, or is it actually as harmful as ‘classic sexism’? It acknowledges the concept as socially unacceptable, but still relies on it, albeit laced with irony.
English Literature and Language, and Linguistics students may want to examine the way in which language is interpreted. HSPS students may want to look at social media as a tool to create social change. History students may want to look at the development and transformation of sexism throughout different periods of time.