Backlash for Dutch online retailer over gay wig 

A few days before the annual Gay Pride in Amsterdam took place, the Dutch retailer Blokker was criticized for advertising a blonde wig as a "gay wig". 

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Backlash for Dutch online retailer over gay wig  - NewsMavens
Hair. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Blokker, a Dutch shop selling household items and random accessories, was forced to take down a wig it was selling in its online shop because it was advertised as a "gay wig". This massive faux-pas took place a few days before Amsterdam's annual Gay Pride. 

It is unclear whether Blokker wanted to -- albeit extremely clumsily -- ride the commercial wave of Amsterdam's Gay Pride. They never officially commented on the storm surrounding the controversial choice of words describing the blonde wig, but instead assigned blame to a "sales partner".

But the Netherlands has a history of commercializing identities and various communities. In 2006, a sweet that used to be referred to as a "negerzoenen" (meaning "negro kisses") was withdrawn from the market.

To this day, there are cookies called "jodenkoek" (meaning "Jew's cookie") that are sold in every supermarket. While jodenkoek have an enigmatic history, making it more difficult to understand whether their name is discriminatory or not, the strategy of using a religion, a sexual orientation or race as a marketing tool is uncomfortable to say the least. 

And this is especially true in 2018. Gay Pride has been in the Netherlands since 1996, and has always been a celebration of freedom and diversity rather than an event to protest for equal rights (Pink Saturday, which takes place in a different city each year, is an LGBT+ protest event). Sadly, Gay Pride organizers have often clashed with commercialized products during the run-up to the event. Sadly, it was still the case this year. So instead of playing with fire, why not just cut out the politically-charged advertising altogether?

There is no such thing as lesbian sweaters or heterosexual fake lashes being sold online, after all. 

Details from the story:

  • On Thursday, Volkskrant tried reaching Blokker but they weren’t able to reach the company for comment
  • It is unclear why a blonde wig would have to be a "gay" wig
  • An employee of Intertoys (the toy branch of Blokker) tweeted that the company had been notified and contacted the department so that they would change this immediately
  • According to Blokker, the wig was being sold on the website through a “sales partner” called Shoppartners
  • The storm that the wig caused did not settle, as people on the Internet started to unveil more and more offensive wigs -- like an afro wig being worn by a white person who was black faced (painted their face black) -- which have also been removed from the webshop
  • However, I went through the online shop and typed “pruik” (“wig”) only to find that there were some borderline offensive wigs left…
  • The same "gay wig" appeared in another webshop as a Willem-Alexander wig for King’s Day, so it’s really surprising that they decided to advertise the wig as such
  • Two years ago, Hema was criticised because it had made T-shirts on which two sausages with a heart in the middle were printed, and two pastries (tompouce) with a heart in the middle were sold for Gay Pride
  • They were criticised on the one hand for not doing enough for the LGBT+ community, and on the other hand were criticised for pushing politically-charged messages/opinions on its customers

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