A Chinese cellphone manufacturer has apologized for running a contest that critics described as sexist.
OnePlus was promoting the OnePlus One handset, which has had some excellent reviews. It’s an Android-based handset with some high-end specs, being sold to US customers at $299. It looks like that’s a promotional price for the launch period and, whether or not demand really is exceeding supply, the company isn’t simply putting it on general sale. Instead you can only buy one with an invite, which you either get from an existing owner or through social media promotions.
It’s the latest such promotion that went badly. The company decided to run a contest called “Ladies First” that was only open to women. Entrants had to share a self-portrait that incorporated the company logo, the only restriction being no nudity. The company explained that:
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. OnePlus wants to give a shout out to the few but beautiful female fans in our community.
The contest rules says that the 50 photos ranked highest by members of a OnePlus forum would earn an invite, with another 100 invites handed out at random among all entrants. If at least 500 people entered, the company promised one winner would get the phone for free.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of replies seemed to either be women making a genuine entry and pushing the “no nudity” clause to its extreme limits, or pranksters submitting even less tasteful pictures. As you’d also expect, the forum was also filled with comments from people who found the whole premise of the contest to be sexist and degrading, some of whom made their protest through self-portraits that didn’t exactly promote the brand. The stunt even earned criticism from the makers of the phone’s operating system, Cyanogen.
OnePlus has since cancelled the contest and issued a press statement reading:
OnePlus is thrilled to have a small but growing number of women active in our online community. We want to encourage even more women to get involved with and excited about the amazing things happening in tech right now. The ‘Ladies First’ contest was a very misguided effort by a few isolated employees to do just that, however there is no question the post not only failed to better include our female community but actually perpetuated a stereotype that OnePlus in no way supports or condones. We deeply regret any offense caused by this contest.