'No boyfriend? Don't call me Mum': IKEA pulls 'sexist' ad in China

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has withdrawn a television advert in China featuring a mother who threatened to disown her unmarried daughter after it unleashed a wave of criticism on social media for being sexist and insulting single women.

The 30-second advert showed a family dinner scene where a Chinese mother declared sternly to her somber-looking daughter: “If you cannot bring back a boyfriend, don’t call me Mum.”

A young man then appeared at the door with flowers and the delighted parents set up their dining table with IKEA tableware and decorations. The scene ended with the tagline “celebrate everyday’s life”.

IKEA apologized for the advert after critics said it stigmatized China’s young single women who are colloquially known as the “leftover women”, a term coined to refer to professional women who have not married by their late 20s.

Young Chinese women have in recent years fought back against such discrimination.

“The TV ad has been withdrawn from all channels by IKEA China,” the Swedish retailer’s China spokeswoman Linda Xu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We understand the concern caused by this TV advertisement and sincerely apologize for giving the wrong perception,” the company said in a statement.

IKEA’s apology, which was uploaded on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, prompted over 1,500 comments where users called the advert “disgusting” and “old-fashioned” with some calling for a boycott of IKEA products.

“Is the ad trying to tell us single women are not welcome at home and can’t use IKEA products to celebrate moments in everyday life? This is clearly sexist, I am disappointed,” an user wrote on Weibo.

In July, German luxury carmaker Audi came under fire from consumers in China for an advert that compared buying a second-hand car to checking out a bride-to-be.