Hey Microsoft: The 1950s called, they want their sexist ad back

This isn't the first time Microsoft has resorted to regressive gender norms VIDEO

Topics: Video, innovation, Sexism, Pinterest, Microsoft, Silicon Valley, ,

Hey Microsoft: The 1950s called, they want their sexist ad back

While the latest installment of Microsoft’s “Honestly” campaign doesn’t fall to the levels of 1950s advertising, it’s still definitely problematic. In the spot, a bride-to-be talks about her near miss (almost getting a Mac) and then lauds her Microsoft OneNote for how easy it is to plan her wedding! Yay technology!



The ad is another dispiriting example of how oblivious the tech world seems when it comes to its own entrenched sexism. There are so many non-domestic activities that these women could be partaking in. Yet, Microsoft defaults to wedding planning. Are they living in Pleasantville,or the real world?

As Slate and Huffington Post have pointed out, this is not the first time that Microsoft seems to have forgotten that women use — and know how to use — computers. Previous ads, for example, show an adult women talking about how great a new laptop is… for her kids. According to the HuffPost:

Back in December, the company was forced to change the language of a customizable letter for their “We got your back” promotion after it blatantly characterized women as non-gamers. One such option read:

“Hey honey, not sure if you’ve heard, but Xbox One is available. That means we can start playing games like Dead Rising 3. I know, I know. You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us…”

In the interest of fairness, they do have an advertisement where a young EMT student uses her laptop for both fun and school — presumably medical school. That is, at least, an improvement.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the case of the piteous number of women honored with Google Doodles, representation is important, as is dispelling the notion that women are technologically impaired. And in an industry that struggles with gender parity, this just shows that Silicon Valley doesn’t have a clue. Microsoft itself is dominated by an 80% male staff, the majority of its board is male and all three CEOs past and present are male, so it is hardly surprising that this ad campaign is so clueless.

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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