A German company has come under fire after releasing an ad featuring an Asian woman who achieves sexual gratification from sniffing the dirty clothes of White men.
The commercial comes from Hornbach, a Bornheim-based DIY store chain offering home improvement products such as home appliances, household hardware and gardening supplies.
The 45-second spot begins with several White men, all seemingly above 40, working hard in their respective gardens.
They then hand their dirty clothes, including underwear, to two men in white coats.
The ad cuts to their clothes being processed for packaging in a plant, which would shortly end up in vending machines.
The whole thing concludes with an Asian woman purchasing a pack, sniffing it and apparently achieving ecstasy.
The ad has drawn a massive backlash since it was uploaded to YouTube, with users slamming it for its portrayal of Asian women.
This week, a South Korean Twitter user named Sung Un started both a Twitter thread explaining the problem in detail, and a change.org petition demanding for the ad’s removal, a thorough investigation, a public apology to Asian women and publication of the ad’s screening process, as well as a diversity report from Hornbach.
Sung Un, a doctorate student who has been living in Cologne since 2010, explained that the ad is problematic for three reasons:
The Asian woman is represented as a mere tool to make the white male customers feel better about themselves.
The ad can make Asian women’s everyday life in Germany even harsher.
Hornbach knowingly picked Asian women because they are often consumed as sexual exotics with no voice.
1. Hello everybody,
My name is Sung Un and I’m from South Korea. I live since 2010 in Cologne. I’m married, have a dog, and am writing my doctoral thesis in media culture.
— 요녀석 (@omniaamo) March 27, 2019
Sung Un also called out Hornbach for releasing GIFs that show White men and White women engaging in the same activity.
She described them as mere alibis “because we all know that White persons in German society and media landscape have a completely different subject position than Asians.”
There are also other clips. pic.twitter.com/wqUckEMpZG
— Hornbach (@Hornbach_tweets) March 26, 2019
“Most figures in commercials in Germany are white. One sees white people of all different ages, sex, occupations, problems, and regional characters. Each individual white actress and actor represents one individual. They are unique and there are so many of them,” Sung Un wrote.
“While the Asian are an absolute minority in German society and media. Therefore, an Asian actor in a German advertisement quickly evokes the impression that it’s about the category ‘Asian,’ rather than an individual. In short: This ad can more easily reinforce prejudices about Asians as a category than the white people, whose variety is overwhelming.”
In a response comment under the ad on YouTube, Hornbach acknowledged the backlash but maintained that their campaign simply addresses the “longing for spring.”
According to the company, the ad turns around the stereotype of “some Asian men” pursuing the niche fetish of “olfactophilia,” with the Asian female protagonist acting “not [as an] object of consumption but rather the self-determined consumer that objectifies the men.”
Hornbach’s full statement reads:
“We are happy to receive many positive comments regarding our spot ‘So riecht das Frühjahr’ but are also aware that the content was at times misunderstood and led to discontent and anger.
“The spot addresses the longing for spring. For some, spring may smell like flowers or freshly cut grass. For us, spring smells like the sum of all of its parts, including the struggle and effort of gardening projects. Ultimately, spring is the time of year that fills us with drive and strength.
“We understand the much discussed last scene as a hint: The image of the grey city arises from a true core. The increasing urbanization and disappearing green areas in cities are in fact a sad reality. We are showing how much nature would be missed if the damage gets greater.
“A protagonist of Asian descent uses the vending machine to buy and consume the smell of spring. In this scene, a fetish (olfactophilia) is used to tell the story. The widely spread stereotype of some Asian men pursuing that fetish at vending machines is turned around in this spot. The woman in this spot is not object of consumption but rather the self-determined consumer that objectifies the men.
Of course, the machine is for everyone. The ethnicity of the protagonist is irrelevant for the discourse on urbanization. Young men from Silicon Valley, old men from a European city or any other person in any other city can be the consumer of the smell of spring. After all, urbanization and sealing of green areas is a global topic.
“At the same time we want to emphasize that HORNBACH stands for an open, fair and honest interaction with each other and strongly condemns discrimination and racism in any form.
HORNBACH stands for diversity. We employ workers from over 70 different countries and from very different cultural backgrounds. We oppose any kind of discrimination and are committed to a work environment free of prejudices in which ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and religion play no role. These values were made public by signing the ‘Charter of Diversity’ in 2008. Since then we also published multiple campaigns (eg. ‘Wir haben nie gesagt, dass es einfach ist’ and ‘Es gibt immer was zu tun’) that communicate messages of empowerment and diversity.
“We embrace open and constructive dialogue that is held with respect and without hostilities. Therefore, we reserve the option to hide or delete inappropriate comments in this section.”
Sung Un’s petition has garnered 1,489 out of 1,500 signatures as of this writing.
The carnage of angry comments continue on YouTube:
Featured Images via YouTube / Hornbach