It’s one of the oldest sexist tropes in the book. And when Burger King tried to flip the idea on its head, it fell flatter than a floppy patty.
The fast food chain kicked off International Women’s Day with a tweet that “women belong in the kitchen”, following up with a thread of tweets clarifying that “only 20% of chefs are women” and the announcement of a scholarship designed to “help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams”.
But if the opener was intended as an attention-grabbing marketing ploy, many are taking issue with the fact that women are, once again, the butt of the joke.
The Burger King campaign follows a previous International Women’s Day stunt by McDonald’s, where the latter chain flipped its ‘M’ sign to become a ‘W’ for the day. The move was criticised as being an “empty gesture” and the latest from its fast food rival hasn’t fared much better.
As people on Twitter have pointed out, some people will only read one tweet.
Others have called the chain “appalling” for perpetuating a sexist joke for the sake of clicks.
And accused the chain of using a “cheap tactic” on an important day.
As others have said, it really wouldn’t have been hard to include the information in one tweet, rather than feeding the trolls.
It’s hard not to see this as yet another example of the commercialisation of International Women’s Day, when brand awareness risks drowning out any messaging around gender equality.
Burger King insists the campaign’s aim is to continue “the important conversation around gender inequality within the culinary field”.
“It was our intention to undermine an outdated stereotype about women and reclaim the terminology, in order to highlight a big problem in the restaurant industry – that women occupy only 20 percent of chef positions in UK restaurants today, which we believe is offensive,” a spokesperson for Burger King told HuffPost UK.
“We have teamed up with culinary schools to create a scholarship programme for our female team members to help them achieve their career aspirations.”
But as Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, previously said: “This use of International Women’s Day by companies is part of the co-option of feminism and women’s equality into a much more mainstream position, that has led to the corporatisation of the advancement of women’s rights.
There’s a risk that it becomes an event a bit like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day instead of giving visibility to the work that women are doing around the world.”
Next year, how about we focus on telling women’s stories rather than jokes?
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.