In a PR attempt gone awry, Burger King Russia released an advertisement that promised three million rubles (a measly $47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to any Russian women who become impregnated by a player competing in the World Cup.
The “reward” was promised to women who, according to the ad, by obtaining the “best football genes,” would “ensure the success of the Russian team for generations to come.”
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) June 20, 2018
To make matters worse, the advertisement states that the promotion is all in the name of “social responsibility.” Needless to say, critics fired back at the demeaning offer, rightfully calling it sexist or a form of prostitution.
In an offhand apology (translated by Google), Russian Burger King wrote, “We apologize for the statement we made. It turned out to be too insulting. We thank you for the feedback and hasten to inform you that we removed all materials related to the application.”
While some are outraged over the blatant mockery of women’s dignity, others say the advertisement was a joke on, or even an addendum to, Russian lawmaker Tamara Pletnyova’s nationalist statement last week in which she urged Russian women not to have sexual relations with “foreigners” visiting for the World Cup so as to avoid becoming “single mothers to mixed race children.”
How and why Burger King thought this would be a good publicity stunt is beyond us here at NYMM. Encouraging women to have sex in exchange for money and food is crude and offensively uninspired. Russian media outlets in general need to do better, because it’s clear that their representation of women has a long way to come.
Ksenia Fadeeva, a 19-year-old student from Moscow, said that Russian women are accustomed to sexist advertisements.
“It is normal for us,” she told USA TODAY. “It is pathetic, but companies know they can appeal to the basic instincts of Russian men in this way. My male friends thought it was funny. We get used to this.”
Some activists for gender equality have said that the nature of the advertisement mimics Russian attitudes toward women on the whole.
“This is a direct reflection of the perspective our society has of women,” wrote one feminist community on the app Telegram (translated by Google).
Outrage over women’s representation in media is common – especially around the World Cup or other large sports events which (unreasonably) tend to gear ads toward men.
Women’s rights activist Alyona Popova spoke with BBC about the cultural dynamics between men and women in Russia.
“If men are shouting from every corner that a woman is just a body, and find excuses to justify sexual harassment, then women start thinking that this is the norm,” she said. “We should fight for a new image for women in the media. Instead, they use every opportunity to promote the wrong image.”
The World Cup is a time of unity, cultural celebration, and good sportsmanship – none of which include propositioning women to have sex for cash and a lifetime supply of mediocre hamburgers. As Popova insinuates, we should be promoting the right image of women in media, or at least one which doesn’t depict them as vessels which exist to incubate the children of professional soccer players.
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