Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com apologized on Wednesday for a sexist makeup marketing slogan printed on 1,000 delivery boxes sent to its female customers, which was widely perceived as propagating gender stereotypes.
"Without lipstick on, how are you any different from a man?" was written in red on packages sent out by JD Beauty, a branch of e-commerce company JD.com which specializes in selling skincare products and cosmetics.
Upon receiving their beauty bargains, many customers reported feeling shocked and offended.
Angry customers took photos of the delivery boxes and shared them on Chinese social media platforms, triggering widespread condemnation and criticism against the sexist message conveyed through the marketing campaign.
"That's outright gender discrimination against both genders," @yoyo_yuan commented on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo.
"So I just found out I was a man for the past 18 years. When has lipstick become an indicator of our gender?" @mukaxiaoqing noted.
"I feel sad. Most of us are adults and have the judgement to filter this message. But what if young girls read this?" another Weibo user @nulinulizainulideNatasha asked.
Amidst fierce online backlash, JD Beauty issued a public apology on Wednesday on Weibo.
"We respect every customer's different choice," the statement said. "We sincerely apologize for the negative impact caused by the improper marketing campaign and thank you for your support and understanding."
The brand admitted that they had printed approximately 300,000 packages with the controversial slogan and mailed out 1,000, adding that they had taken measures to destroy the remaining boxes.
It also promised to offer a free beauty product as compensation to all customers who had received the questionable delivery boxes, but netizens' responses were mixed.
The incident has since triggered ongoing discussion on gender roles and stereotypes in China. While some criticized gender discrimination against women at home and workplace, others voiced support for male beauty lovers who they said should also gain respect for wearing lipstick.