19 Oct 2017

Austrian ad shows a woman in a headscarf and all hell breaks loose

A woman wearing a hijab in a drugstore campaign has caused enraged online users who threaten to boycott the company.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Austrian ad shows a woman in a headscarf and all hell breaks loose - NewsMavens
Girls rocking the hijab. Henrik Hansson - Globaljuggler/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Why this story matters:

The Austrian drugstore chain and cosmetics manufacturer Bipa recently launched a new ad campaign. With the slogan Weil ich ein Mädchen bin (Because I’m a girl), they are relaunching their brand's entire image. The corresponding advertising posters and TV ad slots show women of all ages and backgrounds.

Some are Austrian celebrities, like fashion designer Lena Hoschek who is shown as a young mom and businesswoman, and others are just "regular" women, including one who has caused a virtual shitstorm on the brand’s Facebook page -- a young Muslim woman. She wears a grey hijab, some red lipstick and smiles confidently with her arms on her hips. 

A TV ad has shown a woman posing for selfies wearing a pink headscarf and baseball cap in the campaign, which is also using the phrases "I am proud" and "I can be what I want".

A flood of complaints started after the far-right and FPÖ-supporting online platform unzensuriert.at published an article about the ad campaign. In it, the ad is referred to as "kneeling before Islam" and as a sign of "creeping Islamization" in Austria. Many of the Facebook comments mirror the words and sentiments from the article. Most of the enraged users are also threatening to boycott the company.

In its response to some of the hateful posts, Bipa said that political or religious statements were not part of the campaign, but that the company just wanted to "show the diversity of their customers". There has been similar outrage over Austrian supermarkets selling Halal meat in the past.

Details from the story:

  • About 700,000 people in Austria identify as Muslim in 2017 -- that's around 8% of the Austrian population, double what it was at the last population census in 2001.
  • Islam has been a recognized religion in Austria for over 100 years.
  • The sale of Halal meat has also caused a lot of outrage by right-leaning users on social media. While the supermarket Merkur decided to keep selling Halal meat, the supermarket Spar ultimately stopped selling it.
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