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Daily Drip

Makeup Wipe Ad Accused of “Demonizing” Sexual Assault Victims

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Makeup removal brand PurCotton has come under fire in China multiple times this week — first, for a new video advertisement that netizens say “demonizes” victims of sexual assault, then for the company’s weak apology to the controversy.

The commercial that PurCotton put out on short video platform Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, shows a woman walking alone at night while being followed by a masked man. As the man gets closer, the woman is shown using a PurCotton wipe to remove her makeup so that it completely changes her look — to a man’s face. The video ends with vomiting sounds and graphics as the seemingly terrified stalker runs away.

While the company supposedly intended to show the “cleaning function of its wipe products” with this ad, social media users have reacted furiously, with some calling for a boycott of the brand.

“There are 10,000 ways of showing the ‘cleaning function’ but PurCotton chose to discriminate, humiliate and make fun of women over daily threats they’re facing,” reads a popular comment on microblogging platform Weibo. “The brand doesn’t realize the problem, but rather blames female consumers for being troublesome and difficult to serve.”

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As the outcry grew louder, PurCotton finally removed the video and officially apologized on Sunday night.

“We’ve carefully reviewed everyone’s comments and suggestions,” reads the apology. “Thanks for the criticism. This is our fault and we’re sorry.”

But the letter goes on to outline the brand’s mission, patents, quality control, and charity activities. That approach only added fuel to the fire with the hashtag #The apology from PurCotton# accumulating over 500 million views on Weibo. In a poll published by Weibo, over 90% of respondents said they refused to accept the apology.

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“If you want to apologize, do it properly and sincerely. This is just a letter of appreciation for the brand itself,” said another commenter on Weibo.

PurCotton has more than 240 stores in China with an estimated 20 million customers, according to the company’s website. Or rather, it used to have that many customers. The number might decrease dramatically in light of this recent campaign and bungled apology.

Lu Zhao
Lu Zhao is a bilingual and multimedia journalist with a focus on human interest and social issues. Her work has appeared in USA Today, UPI, SupChina, Pandaily, Chicago Reporter, and other publications.