This Makeup Company Got Called out and Their Response Was Just as Bad

July 7th 2017

Almie Rose

"Skip class—NOT concealer!"

That's the message Benefit UK cosmetics has for women in their latest ad campaign for under-eye concealer. Sarah Champion, a British member of parliament, doesn't think that's such a great message.

Other women chimed in with similar responses to the ad.

As the above tweets point out, this isn't the first time Benefit UK has used its brand to poke fun at women's looks. The brand earlier participated in a Twitter hashtag, "MakeAMovieAFatty," in which it changed names of movies to make fat jokes:

Given this history, Benefit UK isn't going to get the benefit of the doubt that their "skip class" campaign was "tongue in cheek." Still, that's exactly what their managing director claimed in a letter to Champion.

Champion had written Benefit UK a letter explaining why she felt its message wasn't appropriate. The response was "patronizing and dismissive."

"The suggestion that young women and girls should prioritize appearance over education is potentially hugely damaging," she wrote. "I am sure you would agree that we must do all that we can to encourage young women to excel in their education and counter damaging stereotypes that continue to hold women back."

letter to Benefit UK

In a letter to Champion riddled with grammatical errors , Benefit UK Managing Director Ian Marshall responded, "t]here was NEVER any desire to discourage women or girls of any age, to choose make up over education. Indeed, the preposterous notion that this should be the case, meant that we were totally confident that our customers everywhere would know that this message was totally 'tongue in cheek' ..."

"[I]n summary," Marshall concluced, "I apologise if our messaging has been misinterpreted." Twitter users were quick to point out that was an insincere way to apologize:

It's a frustrating response (and ad campaign) because women already struggle to be taken seriously in academia.

As The Guardian reported in 2012 on women and PhDs, "only 12 percent of third year female PhD students want a career in academia," noting, "women are more negatively affected than men by the competitiveness in this stage of an academic career and their concerns about competitiveness are fuelled, they say, by a relative lack of self-confidence."

Benefit Cosmetics concealer ad

Furthermore, "women PhD candidates had one experience that men never have," The Guardian reported. "They were told that they would encounter problems along the way simply because they are women. They are told, in other words, that their gender will work against them."

That's why messaging like Benefit's is damaging. Yes, it's a cosmetics brand, but there are hundreds of other makeup companies that manage to sell beauty products without fueling stereotypes and offending customers. 

benefit tweets