Singapore-based hair removal salon chain Strip defends China ad featuring orang utan

The images went viral in China earlier this month, angering social media users who accused the company of shaming women who do not remove their body hair. PHOTO: STRIP-CHINA.CN

SINGAPORE - Hair removal salon chain Strip said that some social media users in China may have drawn the wrong conclusion from one of its advertisements in the country featuring an orang utan.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Singapore-based chain addressed images of the ad for its salons in Shanghai.

The images went viral in China earlier this month, angering social media users who accused the company of shaming women who do not remove their body hair, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

The ad published by SCMP showed an orang utan and a model wearing similar dresses at the doorway of a Strip outlet.

Strip said that the orang utan is the company’s brand mascot and is not a comparison to the female form.

“Our mascot was inspired by the beloved tourism icon of Singapore and has been present since the brand started 20 years ago,” Strip said, adding that it will never engage in campaigns that shame or influence people to accept beauty services that benefit the company.

“We are a brand that believes in good humour and setting high standards in all our campaigns with full respect for females and males alike with the most progressive mindset,” the company said.

The use of inventive and humorous advertising and marketing campaigns helps the company remove the embarrassment that could be caused by a “sensitive subject”, it added.

Strip has since decided to stop using images of orang utans in its ads in mainland China and Hong Kong in order to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Founded in Singapore in 2002, Strip has outlets in 12 cities including Bangkok, Manila and Mumbai, according to its websites.

Posts on the company’s Facebook page have featured images of orang utans for more than a decade.

According to SCMP, the ad in question has been viewed 4 million times on video-sharing app Douyin and drawn criticism from social media users in China.

“I’ve made a tip-off against this advertisement,” SCMP quoted one user saying. “This company degrades women and materialises women and creates body anxiety among women only for the sake of its commercial interests.”

“What’s wrong with being hairy?” another user said.

A third user said: “A store serving women brought discomfort to women. Is it aware of who its customers are?”

The ad received criticism in the All-China Women’s Federation’s newspaper, as well as from a gender researcher and a women’s rights organisation founder SCMP spoke to.

Strip also addressed comments attributed to an unnamed employee of the company in SCMP’s story.

According to SCMP, the employee said that posters featuring the ad had been supplied by Strip’s head office, and that an orangutan was used because they had difficulty finding a woman with enough body hair to appear in the ad.

“The orangutan represents a person with too much body hair,” the employee was quoted as saying.

“The advertisement sends the message that if you don’t remove your body hair, you will look like an orangutan; if you remove it, you will become beautiful.”

Strip, in response to these comments, said: “The alleged conversation in the article with an unnamed staff member saying that we could not find a human as hairy as an ape and hence used the image of an ape is most abnormal. This conversation may have been fabricated and is most unlikely to be true.”

The company added that it was in the midst of an internal investigation with its Shanghai team.

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