The department store chain Sears has withdrawn two photographs from an advertising campaign amid a barrage of online complaints that they are racist.
Sears México, owned by billionaire businessman Carlos Slim, used two images featuring indigenous women to promote its “Vacations 2020” clothing collection.
One of the photographs shows an indigenous woman in traditional dress standing next to a much taller fair-skinned woman dressed in clothes available for sale at Sears. The other image shows an indigenous woman holding bags and textiles beside a man dressed in a Sears outfit who looks down at her while smiling.
Social media users accused Sears of objectifying the indigenous women who appear in the photos, and the hashtag #SearsNoEntiende (Sears doesn’t understand) – an adaptation of the chain’s slogan “Sears Me Entiende” (Sears Understands Me) – trended on Twitter.
Twitter user @Santiralph speculated satirically about how the images might have come about.
“Marketing creative: Imagine a tall white man looking at an indigenous woman beneath his shoulder and a blonde woman showing disinterest towards another indigenous woman. SEARS: You’re a genius, advertising approved. #SearsNoEntiende.”
Above images of the offending advertisements, Twitter user @Magdalenachulis wrote: “Come and see the stigmatization, objectification and racism that this store promotes. Can someone explain it to me?”
Another Twitter user appealed to the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred) for advice about how to have the advertisements removed from the streets of Polanco, an affluent Mexico City neighborhood where Sears has a store.
“Hey @CONAPRED how can we remove these @searsmexico billboards that I think are classist and discriminatory. What procedure should be followed?” wrote @mara_glz.
Conapred responded with a graphic that outlines the various ways in which a complaint can be filed – in person, in a letter, by e-mail and phone or on the council’s website.
As the criticism continued, Sears México announced on Twitter late Thursday that it would withdraw the two images from its advertising campaign.
“At Sears we value your opinion about our new campaign that seeks to highlight the cultural richness of Mexico. We understand that for some people the message was inappropriate so we offer a sincere apology and … we’re withdrawing both photos from the campaign,” the company said.
Sears México also felt the wrath of social media users recently after it advertised domestic appliances such as washing machines and blenders beneath a banner that wished women a happy International Women’s Day for March 8.
“Celebrating [International] Women’s Day promoting washing machine and domestic appliances is extremely sexist,” said Twitter user @BBBLGUMDJ.