China’s leading stand-up comedian Li Dan caught in sexism controversy over insulting slogans for women’s underwear
Li Dan, who is deemed as a leader of China’s stand-up comedy, became embroiled in a sexism controversy on Thursday after he released promotional slogans for underwear that many netizens found insulting and disrespectful to women.
Li, 31, is one of the most famous stand-up comedians in China. He is viewed as the one who took stand-up comedy, which used to be a subculture, to the Chinese public as in 2017 when he co-produced a show named Roast and Rock to promote stand-up comedy culture with Tencent Penguin Pictures.
The controversy comes two months after Yang Li, a performer from the company Fun Factory that Li founded in 2014 in Shanghai, got caught up in an online backlash and was anonymously reported to the state cultural publication regulator for allegedly being “sexist” after mocking men in a TV show, saying, “They look so mediocre, yet manage to be so confident.”
Li published an ad post on his account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Wednesday for Beijing-based underwear brand Ubras, in which he said that underwear is “equipment that can help women lie to win in the workplace,” according to media reports.
The post, released with the hashtag “workplace life jacket,” triggered outrage among Chinese netizens.
“How could I lie to win in the workplace by wearing bras? What are you implying?” one Weibo user commented.
“The slogan implies that women win in the workplace by lying down. In other words, all the efforts women make to work overnight, to hold meetings and to draw up plans are meaningless. It’s really insulting and offensive,” said another.
The brand apologized on Weibo on late Wednesday, saying that they had removed all related content.
The company explained that its original intention is to express the idea that their products are so comfortable that they can help women face tiredness in work and daily life.
“In the future, we will create and review promotional content with more care,” the brand said.
Li also apologized on his Weibo account on Thursday, admitting that “the promotion was indeed improper and I should have expected the impact it would have.”
Li noted that he always respects women’s positions, and women’s feelings should be given more consideration in work, especially when female topics are involved.
“It’s my fault. I will reflect on myself, thanks for all your criticism,” Li said in the apology.
But the apologies did not seem to be enough to convince all Chinese netizens.
“They knew what impact the slogan would have, but they still decided to post it to catch the public’s attention. It’s disgusting,” Jun Yixiao, a woman who works in Beijing, told the Global Times.
Stand-up comedy, which originated in Europe and North America, is quite young in China, with “open mic” shows first appearing in pubs in Beijing and Shanghai in 2009. Audiences in Guangdong Province came to it much earlier as it was first introduced to neighboring Hong Kong in 1990, according to the Xinhua News Agency.