To celebrate Star Wars Day* last week, a “geeky” online clothing retailer named Black Milk chose to post this inflammatory image (left) on their Facebook page, for all to enjoy. When a few followers, who also claimed to be long-time customers, started complaining that the post was sexist and derogatory, the company hunkered down into a bunker mentality, censoring comments and banning their more out-spoken critics. They then released a defensive non-mea-culpa, which included this hilarious explanation for why they would never back-down and apologise for their snafu: “Because we have integrity. Because we didn’t do anything wrong, so we have nothing to apologise for! We stand up for what we believe in.”
That stance might actually be quite admirable and worthy if they’d been defending a serious political statement… but the fact they were willing to go to the wall (and drive away customers) over their assumed right to make dumb jokes about the relative hotness of two women, is really quite astonishing in its petty bullheadedness. I only have a year’s worth of Marketing education under my belt, but it would seem obvious to me that if loyal customers are threatening to stop buying your products until you apologise for an easily-corrected goof, then there’s really no good reason not to issue a swift and sincere apology… aside from being the honourable thing to do, it would also be the smart thing to do, and it’s always nice when those two overlap. Apparently Black Milk eventually saw sense, and sacrificed their so-called “integrity” for the sake of saving face… but I’ve no doubt that this incident will be cited by Marketing and Business students for years to come, as a classic example of a company misusing social media to bite the hands that feed them.
As far as I can see from their website, Black Milk’s whole modus operandi is to put hot chicks in tight, skimpy outfits that incidentally happen to feature sci-fi-and-fantasy-related imagery… so I’m not entirely sure why regular patrons were quite so surprised/enraged by the above image, which actually seems pretty emblematic of the company’s stance, vis-à-vis the on-going debate over how a girl-geek should look and behave. ‘Amy Farrah Fowler’, as portrayed by Mayim Bialik, is an embodiment of what many people (both inside and outside geek-culture) would consider to be a “real” geek-girl… suggesting that frumpiness and social awkwardness are essential attributes for those wishing to claim the title. Is that a positive or a negative stereotype? Don’t ask me! As a hetero man the issue is far too clouded by my own hormonal whims for me to come to any trustworthy conclusions… though I’d argue that there’s something uniquely attractive about a woman with the gawky intensity of an old-school, Amy-esque geek-girl, which deserves to be embraced and honoured… not ridiculed and diminished alongside the easy-pleasy charms of a vamped-up vixen-in-geek’s-clothing.
* “May the 4th be with you!” Ho ho…