International Women’s Day fell on 8 March, and what better way to commemorate the occasion than to… have a sale on frying pans. Or is it?

Departmental store Tangs in Singapore did just that, offering two frying pans at a discounted price of $38 in a sale brochure sent to its clientele on the hallowed day.

The offer apparently didn’t sit too well with Marketing,  “Asia’s leading source of advertising, marketing and media intelligence with editions in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.”

The magazine, which also says it is “fiercely independent… reaches out to more advertising and marketing professionals in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia than any other magazine”, said the promotion “left us rather dismayed.”

“Tangs, in a bid to capitalise on International Women’s Day sent out an e-mail promotion with various products that might entice the women consumer,” said an article on the website about the sale written by Vivienne Tay. “Nestled on top of the list are two frying pan deals going at SG$38.”

“Because, you know, that would be the best gift choice ever,” she added.

Ms Tay is not against sales to mark the day itself – “I for one, would love to get my hands on the Satin Shave Advance” – but she says “on a day where ideals of women empowerment are widely celebrated, it is probably not a good idea to be [sic] remind a women that she belongs in the kitchen.”

“And while we are all in support for [sic] targetted [sic] marketing for the right audiences, maybe a little caution needs to be practiced [sic] on such empowering occasions,” she said.

News wire Reuters picked up the story, with comments from Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE).

She said the “promotion appeared to overlook the struggle of women in the city-state, who are pushing for better representation in company boardrooms and battling laws which critics say allow marital rape.”

“International Women’s Day is a day to honor the struggles of women for equality, safety and respect,” said Ms Tan.

“Sadly, too many retailers present it as a consumerist event to be trivialized through sales and discounts rather than attention to the serious issue of gender equality.”

The promo

Alanis Morais, posting on the Marketing article, said, “In general, I oppose the sales tactic for International Women’s Day. I would have respected Tangs (and any other retailer) more if they said a portion of their profits today would go to an organisation that promoted gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Some, however, do not see the issue here.

Commenting on the same website, Jane Chang saw nothing wrong with the promotion.

“Giving a man a new BBQ grill or fancy lawnmower does not imply his place is in the patio or garden,” she said. “A new frying pan similarly does not imply a women’s place is in the kitchen. That’s over reading IMHO. Cooking can be a function or a source of inspiration.”

The issue has also made its way to Reddit.

Poster “hoseliao” said, “I mean, I get her point… but every single holiday is trivialized by retailers what. I don’t see Christians yelling about all the Xmas sales, etc.”

Has political correctness been taken too far in this case? Is getting a woman a frying pan saying to her that that is where she belongs, that there is an element of subjugation, as in days past?

In fact, don’t we go shopping for kitchenware, which may be on sale, all the time? Does that mean we are belittling women, or ignoring the serious issues faced by women all over the world?

Hardly.

It’s just getting a pan so we can go home to cook for our families and loved ones. And yes, even the men will need a pan too.

Perhaps we should not read too much into such things, and allow such days to be celebrated in whichever ways one may want, as long as they are not denigrating.

And having a sale of frying pans is in no way belittling the struggles of women.

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