Italian fashion label Benetton has been forced to issue an apology after it captioned one of its promotional ads for its new boys clothing line with the words “Sorry ladies. No girls allowed!”
Anyone who lived in the ‘90s will remember the “United Colors” anti-racism campaign that drove much of Benetton’s marketing efforts. To this day, the campaign remains a part of the company’s official name. In 2012, Benetton launched its “Unhate” campaign, featuring visuals of world leaders kissing.
Benetton’s previous efforts towards LGBT inclusivity and cultural diversity, however, didn’t stop humorless parents and social justice warriors from taking offense at the words written by Benetton’s social media manager. Many expressed “disappointment,” as an otherwise uncontroversial post attracted hundreds of complaints on Instagram and elsewhere on social media.
The words are not present on the actual promo or advertisement image. Those who took issue with Benetton allege that the wording encouraged gender stereotypes and excluded girls from wearing the clothes, which are intended for boys.
Teen Vogue, the “woke” publication that was recently accused of mistreating its freelance writers, declared the Benetton post “sexist.”
Benetton’s apology states that it intended for the message to be playful, with no intention of being sexist. It also highlighted a recent campaign to promote empowerment for women.
The company stated:
“We’re very sorry that our message struck the wrong chord with some of you. We only meant to be playful in this post, and we apologize if we have unintentionally offended anyone. We certainly did not intend to be sexist.
In fact, we take pride in the fact that United Colors of Benetton has always promoted gender equality, which we firmly believe is necessary for building a better world. This is precisely why we launched—in 2015—the Women Empowerment Program, a long-term sustainability program aimed at supporting and empowering women worldwide.”
The fact that the post remains online has prompted further outrage, with many commenters insisting that the company take down the picture and issue yet another apology acknowledging how “inappropriate and sexist” the post is. Despite this, many other commenters have chimed in to call the response to Benetton an overreaction.
It’s amazing how a single errant post has the potential to undo decades of work—at least in the eyes of the perpetually outraged.