Innerwear and tights maker Atsugi made a bad PR move earlier this week when Twitter users criticized them for sexualizing tights in their latest promotional campaign “Love Tights.”
Atsugi asked artists to draw women wearing tights and include the hashtag #ラブタイツ (love tights) in celebration of “Tights Day” on November 2. You can probably guess what happened next. Some artists posted their art depicting tights-wearing women and underage girls in compromising positions or outfits, clearly pandering to a stocking fetish crowd, and not actual women. It certainly didn’t help that someone in the PR department thought it would be fine to retweet a couple of those illustrations on Atsugi’s corporate account.
A Campaign Gone Wrong
A couple of the now-deleted quote retweets (fortunately preserved in a HuffPost Japan article) were frankly unprofessional and downright creepy. “Aren’t they all so freaking cute?” was one quote retweet. The official Atsugi account also retweeted an artist’s announcement of his upcoming artbook: the preview images featured tights-clad women in various erotic poses.
Twitter users started calling Atsugi out for “sexualizing tights” and women. Atsugi immediately reacted to the criticism, deleting their tweets and retweets, halting the campaign, and releasing an official apology on November 3. They stated their intent was to celebrate the beauty of all women with this campaign. The company cited a lack of “moral awareness” and expressed regret over betraying their customers’ trust.
Justified Backlash or an Overreaction?A couple of the now-deleted quote retweets were frankly unprofessional and downright creepy. Click To Tweet
It should be noted that not all of the #ラブタイツ illustrations Atsugi retweeted were overtly sexual. If you trawl through their tweets using the Wayback Machine, you can see that some of the art was tasteful and well-done, depicting women in every-day situations (albeit women of a certain age and body type). However, whoever was running the Atsugi account saw no problem in retweeting some of the scantily clad depictions, including those of underage girls.
Some said the art itself wasn’t the problem — there’s a time and place for erotic art — but the company’s action of retweeting art with a very different target demographic shows a lack of foresight and understanding of their customers. One user questioned why the illustrations retweeted were all young women, when women of all sizes and ages wear tights. “I think it would have been nice to have an illustration of a woman in her 50s or so wearing a nice outfit.”
Others sided with Atsugi, blaming “chronic complainers” or クレーマー for making a big deal over nothing. “You don’t have to give in to the complainers, you didn’t do anything wrong,” one user tweeted. Ota Ward assembly member Ogino Minoru (おぎの稔), a self-proclaimed otaku who frequently tweets about freedom of expression in anime and manga, also agreed that Atsugi was in the wrong, but expressed some dismay over Atsugi’s decision to cancel the campaign. “Should things have really been pushed to this point?” he tweeted.
“We’re Not Just Legs”"Don't just look at our legs. We're not just legs. Please understand how women live and think." Click To Tweet
Backlash and apologies aside, it’s clear the misguided intentions of Atsugi hurt a lot of women. “When it came to tights I relied on Atsugi’s products, but if this is what their corporate structure is like, I won’t buy from them ever again,” one angry user tweeted. “It makes me want to puke.”
This isn’t the first time men on the Internet have sexualized women’s everyday wear, either. Last year, a manufacturer of bras for large-breasted women had to fend of attempts to use its product as an excuse to sexualize women in manga.
Women in Japan already have a lot to contend with – from mansplainers bashing mothers to job-hunting harassment. For an innerwear manufacturer to blunder like this is just another slight against women.
User @fuemiad said it best: “Don’t just look at our legs. We’re not just legs. Please understand how women live and think. Consider how you, as a manufacturer, can make our lives easier.”