3 wildly inappropriate International Women's Day campaigns

Ah, International Women's Day, the day when businesses all abolish their gender pay gap, childcare becomes free and women everywhere get to take the day off. Oh. No. Hang on. It's the day where brands and businesses make empty gestures pretending that they care about #equality and men around the world complain about not having an International Men's Day (they do, it's in November). 

Over the years, we've seen some truly awful branding fails from those trying to empower and promote their love of women, while usually selling something. Here are three completely wild examples, plus another that isn't as bad, but still feels like a misstep.

01. Jackie the Ripper

woman in dark clothes next to a wall, with 'murderer' written on papers behind her

"Today is the day murderous females get the recognition they so rightfully deserve" (Image credit: London Dungeon )

Last year, the London Dungeon decided to do something that absolutely no one had been waiting for. It renamed serial killer Jack the Ripper, Jackie the Ripper, and decided the murderer would be played by a female actor rather than a male actor. A tweet from iVisitLondon said: "Today is the day murderous females get the recognition they so rightfully deserve, @London Dungeon for one day only Jack the Ripper has been dubbed Jackie the Ripper."

Apparently, this move was made to bring attention to the theory that Mary Pearcey, who was convicted of killing her lover's wife and child in 1880, and was once a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case. I think you'll agree that knowing that some women are murderers too is exactly what we should be celebrating on the one day a year that we have devoted to our "cause".

I'd also like to repeat that this was LAST YEAR. 

02. #NoMoreStretchMarks

Lumenis advert for getting rid of stretch marks on International Women's Day

No more SCARS (Image credit: Lumenis)

If there's one thing that women love, it's being reminded of all the things that are apparently "wrong" with their bodies. Lumenis decided to give us all an extra special reminder in 2019 when it advertised its stretch mark treatment. Brilliant. I also enjoy that one of the hashtags used was #PowerOfWomen. Because who doesn't feel powerful when removing something society deems unacceptable – but is quite possibly the result of having created a human – from their skin?!

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03. Free anti-spiking kits

an advert offering free anti-spiking tests with every order

Oh happy day (Image credit: I Saw It First via cheeruplove on Instagram)

Who doesn't want a free anti-spiking test with their clothing order? This a campaign in partnership with Check Your Drink with the hashtag #stopthespike. So it's women who are being encouraged to stop this problem. I can't imagine such a campaign going out on International Men's Day.

This one was spotted by @cheeruplove, who has also highlighted some other outrageous IWD examples (see below):

04. Women's Prize for Fiction

woman wearing pyjamas next to a women's prize trust logo

You too can look chic while you get paid less (Image credit: Women's Prize for Fiction)

This one isn't quite as outrageous. But just changing your logo to pink, or in fact doing any sort of pink-themed rebrand is, in my opinion, utterly pointless. It doesn't say anything, and it doesn't do anything rather than reinforce the idea that women like pink (some of us do, some of us don't, in case anyone is still unclear). 

Women's Prize for Fiction say it wants to "reclaim pink", because of the book Feminists Don't Wear Pink And Other Lies curated by Scarlett Curtis (though it managed to tag the wrong Scarlett Curtis in its tweet).

It's woven pink through all activities in March, "including cosy Stripe & Stare pyjamas and beautiful enamel pins that contribute to the Women's Prize Trust, the charity behind the Women's Prize". 

"With our new PJ's getting cosy and settling down with a favourite book has never looked so chic!" it says on its website. It also says on its site that it knows "that both reading and writing, and our work around them" develops skills, including  communication skills, confidence and health and wellbeing. It does sell some fun T-shirts with female authors on them, and the pins are quite nice, I'm just not quite sure where the pyjamas fit into the equation.

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How can brands do better on IWD?

If you're the owner of a brand or business and are wondering what you should do on IWD, the first thing is to check your gender pay gap. If the business is a UK company with over 250 employees you can check the pay gap by tweeting @PayGapApp for {company name}. Tweets with #IWD will also get an automatic pay gap quote tweet if that information is available (the contrast between the brand's message and its pay gap makes for some interesting reading). See below for more info on how it works.

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Once you've put in place a plan to close any pay gap, secondly, you could try asking the women in your organisation what they would like. Imagine that. Sophie Walker also has some good ideas:

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Rosie Hilder

Rosie Hilder is Creative Bloq's Deputy Editor. After beginning her career in journalism in Argentina – where she worked as Deputy Editor of Time Out Buenos Aires – she moved back to the UK and joined Future Plc in 2016. Since then, she's worked as Operations Editor on magazines including Computer Arts, 3D World and Paint & Draw and Mac|Life. In 2018, she joined Creative Bloq, where she now assists with the daily management of the site, including growing the site's reach, getting involved in events, such as judging the Brand Impact Awards, and helping make sure our content serves the reader as best it can.