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First Ladies Michelle Obama and Akie Abe have finally met for the first time and have been enjoying each other’s company this past week. They are both powerful women who are continually working for women around the world to have larger, more active roles in both government and business, so it was fantastic to see them launching new programs in support of women. Each year we take steps to make the world a more equal place and 2015 doesn’t seem to show any signs of being any different.

Japanese department store chain LUMINE has claimed that they also wish to support working women and released two short videos to show that. But instead of empowering and encouraging women, people are finding the videos extremely offensive and are criticizing them harshly. How bad could they be?

Describing themselves as “a special movie that supports working women,” the following videos were released on YouTube.

Although the original YouTube video has been taken down. Another user has uploaded the first video.

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The beginning shows a smartly dressed woman heading to work who is greeted by a bespectacled man in a suit. They are likely coworkers, though it is possible that the man is her superior in the office. Suddenly, he looks at her and says in rough Japanese, “You look terrible. Overtime?”

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The woman looks slightly taken aback but responds with, “No, I slept normally.”

The man says, “Really? You slept?” And then laughs at her, obviously making fun of the woman based on her reaction.

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They continue into the building together and a brightly dressed woman appears. Again, they exchange morning greetings when the man asks, “Did you get your hair cut?” The second woman smiles and twirls her hair before saying, “I just curled it a bit.” The man then mimics her before the original pair head off again.

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Having just passed the second woman, the man tilts his head to the side before saying, “Just as I thought, that girl is cute.” The smartly dressed woman agrees and the man looks at her. He looks at her a second time and says, “Don’t worry because that girl has a different ‘demand’ than you.” This completely stops the women in her tracks.

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“Demand?” she wonders. Then this screen pops up.

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Demand 需要jyuyou
To be desired.
In this situation, it is “the simple working companion”
and him “teasing” that she isn’t the “office flower”. (note: the office flower being the girl everyone fawns over.)

Clearly the comment has bothered the woman, as the next scene shows her massaging her temples and thinking, “Have I been neglecting myself recently?” Finally this message appears:

▼”Do you want to change? You have to change.”

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“LUMINE is also changing. New shop opening Spring 2015!”

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This first commercial seems to have completely missed its mark. Needless to say, scores of Japanese social media users took to the Internet to vent their anger, frustration and bewilderment that such a video, one supposed to “encourage women in the workplace”, has done nothing of the sort, and instead depicts a man who sexually harasses women.

“Because I heard that there were a flood of comments about the LUMINE commercial, I guessed it was just sensitive people overreacting, but then I saw it and it’s really horrible. Why did they think they could make this in 2015?”

“Why LUMINE? A commercial like this in 2015 is very surprising. At the end, I thought Ayabambi (artists who have previously worked with LUMINE) would come and together they would beat the harasser, and that would be the end. It’s puzzling that they made this incredibly unpleasant from beginning to end.”

“I watched the LUMINE commercial. I thought that maybe the coffee of the guy who sexually harasses everyone would explode and his head would blow off into a thousand tiny fragments. I was surprised because nothing happened.”

There was also a second video released on the same day that continued the story from the first. Since this video is no longer online, we’ll will describe it for you.

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The well-dressed women arrives at an after work drinking party and sees the other girl surrounded by many guys, including the awful guy from the first video, and it appears they are having a good time.

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The woman orders two beers before sitting at a different table. She wonders whether the other girl is jyuyou, or “in demand”. The man beside her (the same man from the end of the first video) offers her a drink and ask if it’s true that she likes history. It turns out he also likes history so she offers to lend him a book. He looks around nervously before saying, “It is really true that a lot of people who like history are beautiful.” The woman panics and sputters off some nonsense trying to collect herself when this pops up.

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To have a low opinion of oneself.
For girls who can’t accept honest words of praise,
this is tends to become a habit.

She continues her rapid talking as the tag line “Do you want to change? You have to change.” appears again.

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While thankfully the second video doesn’t have the overbearing tones of sexual harassment, it also fails as a video that supports women in the workforce. While it is an improvement since the male character isn’t interested in her purely due to what she is wearing or looks like, he wants to talk to her because of their shared interest in history, not because it’s empowering to be a working woman.

Neither of these videos really does what it’s purporting to do, and it appears LUMINE understands that since they have now taken the videos offline and have posted an apology on their YouTube page. What is more likely is that they understand the negative press they are receiving and are in full damage control mode.

“We sincerely apologize for the unfortunate video our company produced. We will be extremely careful with this kind of content from now on.” 

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It might not be enough to calm the masses as the hash tag “boycottLUMINE” (#ルミネボイコット) is already trending on social media.

If LUMINE were a store you routinely shopped at, do you think you’d still patronize it after this blunder?

Source: Naver Matome
Images: LUMINE Special Movie