Today in terrible tech sexism: Company holds attractiveness contest to get a smartphone, eventually pulls it

The company OnePlus had a "Ladies First" contest where the 50 most "well-liked" women received an invite

Published August 12, 2014 8:55PM (EDT)

           (<a href=''>NAS CRETIVE</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(NAS CRETIVE via Shutterstock)

Today in both terrible marketing gambits and sexist tech we have the company OnePlus. The start-up, whose motto is "Never Settle" and who claims to be "committed to bringing the best possible technology to users around the world," should rethink its promotional tactics.

The company recently launched its smartphone, The One. However, the process of getting The One is a bit convoluted. According to the Verge, production issues have led to the phone being available by invite only. (If you glance through the OnePlus forum you'll see a mad scrambling for invites.)

However, today the company decided to try a different marketing approach: "Ladies First." The site has been taken down, but a screenshot below explains:

[embedtweet id="499241618827141120"]

"In true gentlemen fashion and because chivalry is not dead, we are giving the lovely ladies of OnePlus a chance to skip the invite line," a staffer wrote in the post. The instructions:

1) Draw the OnePlus logo on a piece of paper or on your hand/face/wherever (so we know it's really you)

2) Take a photo of yourself with the OnePlus logo clearly visible

3) Post the photo in this thread

Then, of course, the 50 most "well-liked" photos will get an invite and a free "Never Settle" T-shirt. Can a get a collective "UGH"?

There are so many issues with this promotion. First, it is a ladies only contest where people will be rating them on their attractiveness. Second, it also commodifies female attractiveness. "Look! Your photo of you plus a logo is worth an invite for a phone! And a T-shirt!" Third, it uses females as props to sell something. "Logos plus women!" All of this continuously reinforces the cultural narrative of women's worth being tied to the completely subjective opinion of their looks. It is a load of hooey.

The site has taken this particular forum post down, but not before some awesome women took them to task with their photos:

[embedtweet id="499250126008102912"]

OnePlus staff member Carl gave a half-assed statement in a forum-post:

"Women make up half the world, and we want to help them be more involved in tech. We understand that our contest was in bad taste, and have therefore pulled it. All participants will be contacted for prizes.

"We apologize and we will course correct for the future. At the same time, we would love to hear your feedback on how we can better get women involved in tech."

Here's some feedback for you, OnePlus: Getting women involved in tech is about promoting our brainpower, our coding power, our ideas, our education and creativity. It is about treating women as human beings and as equals. It is not about selfies.

By Sarah Gray

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

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Innovation Oneplus Sexism Smartphone Technology Women