Metro Ad Slammed as "Sexist," "Offensive"

Women in the poster asks, "Can't we just talk about shoes?"

Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013  |  Updated 2:55 PM EDT
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Metro Ad Slammed as "Sexist," "Offensive"

A new D.C. Metro ad is being called sexist and offensive for depicting a woman rider who wants to "just talk about shoes," not about Metro's reliability.

The poster was spotted by University of Maryland journalism grad student Lucy Westcott at Metro Center. She tweeted a picture with the comment, "Nice bit of early morning sexism on the D.C. Metro."

"When I first saw it, I just glanced at it, so I guess you could say it was eye-catching," Westcott told NBCWashington in an email. "I was on my way up the escalator to work when I first saw the ad, then made my way back down to take a picture. I knew that I had to. I wasn't exactly outraged, but was alarmed and surprised that Metro thought the ad was a good idea, and also that no one had brought attention to it before.

"To me, it is a shame that it's one of too many ad campaigns that are sexist towards women," Westcott said.

The ad was quickly denounced by others.

"Seriously, D.C. Metro?" said @HuffPostWomen. "In a city full of public affairs firms, this is the best messaging they could come up with?" tweeted @MMusikerRD.

The ad is part of Metro's "Metro Forward" campaign, which Metro says on its website is designed to bring attention to Metro's $5 billion project to increase safety and reliability. In small print under the photo, the ad says, "We get it. You're probably not talking about our increased bus reliability."

"The point of the ad is to get people talking about Metro's massive rebuilding effort by juxtaposing technical facts with a variety of light responses in conversation between friends," said Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye in an email.

Ironically, the ad is getting people talking, but not about system reliability.

The ad is "sexist, stupid and offensive," said the group UltraViolet, which advocates for women's rights and against sexism in popular culture and media.

"The PR failure shows just how little Metro Forward thinks of its everyday passenger, and highlights how out of touch the system is with the DC-area residents that they serve," Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a statement. "Metro Forward needs to take these ads down, apologize and plan an advertising campaign that doesn't play on sexist tropes."

Others took to Twitter to post parodies of the ad. One first reported by DCist adds the line, "For example, what are the best shoes for walking to work after the Red Line breaks down?"

For the record, Westcott is a daily Metrorail rider, typically on the green and yellow lines. She said service has always been fine for her.

A self-described consumer of "memes and all things viral," Westcott said she loves the parodies.

"For people to take it and make it their own was actually one of the best things that could have happened, besides starting a conversation about the ad itself," she said. "I'm particularly a fan of the one with pink and princess crowns."

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