By: Ashley Wright
It’s Women’s History Month so you know what that means – an opportunity for corporations and celebrities to acknowledge the existence of women online in order to improve their brand. While many of these attempts at honoring women can seem performative at best, at worst some of them tend to fall short and miss the point entirely. Already this year, there have been several examples of misguided feminism in the name of Women’s History Month which are prime examples of why sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all. The two biggest #feminismfails originated on everybody’s favorite social media site, Twitter, where big companies like Twitch and Burger King (UK) found themselves in hot water.
At the start of the month, Twitch tweeted as a show of support: “March is Women’s History Month. Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch.” This tweet came under fire for a few reasons, but the main issue people had with the statement was the use of the term “womxn.” While some use the word as an alternative spelling that aims to remove binary language, it was soon pointed out that “womxn” is actually a transphobic term. The word is used as a way of othering trans women and is primarily used by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) who use it in order to “take the men out of women.” In all fairness to Twitch, they did delete the tweet and issue an apology. However, one would hope that such a large business would put a little more research into any stances of inclusivity that they are trying to make in these official statements in order to make them at least seem sincere.
While Twitch’s mistake seems to be born out of genuine ignorance, the stunt pulled by Burger King is on a completely different level of incompetence. On March 8 (also International Women’s Day) Burger King UK tweeted out “Women belong in the kitchen.” Naturally this caught people’s attention and not in a good way. Under the initial tweet was a thread detailing a scholarship initiative that Burger King plans on enacting in order to combat the “gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees.” However, these tweets were posted nearly 2 hours after the initial tweet and many people took issue with the clickbait-style marketing. For example, user @CptPuffy criticized Burger King saying, “Yes I know it was supposed to be ‘a joke’ but when you literally click bait people with a misogynistic tweet to get likes it kinda ruins whatever nice reply is below it especially when it comes from a globally recognized franchise.”
The message was also misguided when considering Twitter’s format, as many people don’t see full threads at first, as well as the fact that as more people reply to the initial tweet the thread is broken up, so people may miss the scholarship announcement entirely. Burger King also dug their heels in by refusing to delete the tweet and responding negatively to people who asked for it to be removed until nearly the end of the day. Even then, they claimed they deleted the original tweet not because they saw an issue with it but because of “abusive comments” that they didn’t want to be associated with.
While this is bad enough for an internet stunt, it turns out this campaign was not confined to Twitter. Burger King also took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with the original message “Women belong in the kitchen” in big letters and included the further context at the bottom of the page. Some people have defended Burger King, claiming that this move brought more attention to the scholarship and the gender divide in the culinary industry than a typical announcement would have. Along those lines, however, it is worth noting that when you search for information regarding Burger King’s H.E.R. Scholarship you now only see articles and information regarding the backlash on Twitter and almost no information about the program itself. So, not only did Burger King turn the majority of the internet against them but they also completely buried their own announcement.
Obviously supporting women is great and necessary as gender disparities still exist in all sorts of fields today, but if anything, corporations and even individuals should only make statements like these when they are truly sincere and not simply trying to jump on a movement or gain brownie points. Companies like Burger King or Twitch aren’t just going to solve sexism with posts on Twitter, and it’s just painful to watch them try. More often than not performative acts like these will only result in backlash and, contrary to the popular saying, not all press is good press.