TOKYO — TV Asahi Corp. has discontinued an online advertisement for its Hodo Station evening news program after many criticized the commercial as being discriminatory against women, and posted an apology on the program’s official Twitter account on March 24.
The hashtag “HoSta,” an abbreviation for Hodo Station, “outdated,” and other related terms trended on Twitter in Japan.
The commercial shows a young woman who apparently just came home from work, speaking while facing the audience. With a smile on her face, she says things including, “My senior colleague who returned from maternity leave came to work with their baby, and it was just so cute,” “Some politicians are finally putting up gender equality as their slogan, but like at this point, it’s so outdated,” and, “I bought skin lotion. It’s a really good product.” Realizing that the news program is about to begin, she says, “Oh it’s 9:54 p.m., can I turn on the news?” Then the words, “This person is surely watching HoSta” appear over her face.
Many took to the internet slamming the advertisement as taking lightly the reality that a gender gap exists in Japan. Some comments posted online read, “Is it bad to put up gender equality as a slogan? Do they believe that by making a woman say that, it’s already achieved?” and, “I don’t understand why they have to make her say ‘it’s so outdated’ in such a casual manner.”
The words that appear over the woman’s face also invited criticism. A comment posted on Twitter read, “It’s full of malicious preconceptions that young women are ignorant and don’t watch news programs,” while another pointed out how using the term “koitsu,” an impolite way to say “this person,” to refer to the actress is making fun of women.
On the other hand, there were quite a few posts that denounced or questioned such criticism against the commercial, including a comment by a person who apparently interpreted the advertisement as sarcasm against politics that said, “If gender equality was really being promoted, it would have been achieved without ever having to use such a slogan,” and asking others why they don’t understand the hidden message. Another post pointed out that the real issue was the poor expressions used in the advertisement.
A post including an apology and an explanation was published on the program’s official Twitter account with the headline: “About our recent online commercial.” It read, “Our recent online commercial was created with the intention of making the program feel more familiar to people of all ages. Regarding gender issues, although we tried to convey the idea that while it’s been pointed out that Japan lags behind even from a global perspective, we are in an era of putting it (gender equality) into practice beyond discussion. However, we failed to properly convey our idea.”
Risa Tanaka, former chief editor at Sendenkaigi and the president of The Graduate School of Project Design, said, “It’s not clear who are the targets and what they want to convey, and the commercial leaves the audience a strange feeling.”
She added, “I don’t think they intended to promote gender inequality. Maybe they wanted to say, ‘It’s outdated for politicians to purposely mention gender equality,’ while making it (the program) feel more familiar to women, who are highly sensitive in various fields from childbirth, beauty care to politics.”
However, Tanaka also pointed out problems with the expression that the woman uses.
She explained, “It feels kind of empty, as if she was made to say those things. The expression, ‘koitsu,’ also sounds condescending, and overall the language used is not detail-oriented. Advertisements that can’t garner sympathy don’t work. I think it was criticized because the commercial lacked such consideration.”
(Japanese original by Yuka Obuno, Integrated Digital News Center)