A supermarket chain in China has apologized for apparently featuring a chart in one of its stores that used disparaging language to refer to women who wear larger-sized clothes as “rotten” and “terrible.”
A photo of the sign, which appeared in an RT-Mart store, went viral this week on Chinese social media, where posts about it on the Twitter-like platform Weibo racked up more than four million views.
The sign was labeled as a “suggested women’s sizing chart,” and laid out the different heights and weights associated with clothing sizes. Each size also included an adjective used to describe it: Small sizes were “skinny” and medium sizes were “beautiful,” while large sizes were “rotten” or “terrible” and XXL sizes were “extremely terrible.”
The sizing guide was intended for women between ages 18 and 35, according to the sign.
CNN Business has not independently verified the photo and it isn’t clear which store featured the controversial sizing chart. However, RT-Mart on Thursday “deeply” apologized for the incident in a statement posted to its Weibo account.
“After the incident, RT-Mart thoroughly inspected all RT-Mart stores immediately,” the company said. “After investigation, it was confirmed that such an incident occurred in one store, and the headquarters has quickly requested the store to remove all signs.”
The controversy has reignited criticisms of widespread sexism in Chinese society, particularly around the pressure exerted on women to look a certain way.
Chinese President Xi Jinping last month called for greater gender equality in a speech to the United Nations and a government spokesman quoted an oft-repeated saying “women hold up half the sky” to highlight China’s commitment to the cause when asked about this issue early this week.
The incident also comes as the Chinese government is pushing an anti-food waste campaign countrywide in an attempt to ensure food security for the nation’s almost 1.4 billion people. To encourage people to eat less, restaurants have been accused of fat-shaming behaviors, including weighing customers before they eat and then recommending meals based on their results.
One Weibo user said that the existence of the sign was an indictment of a broader culture of discrimination towards women inside the company.
“As long as there was one staff member questioning this, it would have been impossible to put it out,” the commenter said. Another said that whoever had written that larger women were “rotten” had a “rotten mind.”
China Women’s News, which is operated by the Communist Party-affiliated All China Women’s Federation, said on its official Weibo that the chart was “detestable.”
“Don’t lose respect to grab attention. Advertising and marketing should reflect the corporate values and cultural image. A responsible company should not conduct marketing this way. Learn the lesson!” the group said.
RT-Mart is headquartered in Taiwan but has 416 supermarkets in mainland China. It said that it would strengthen its internal management to ensure similar incidents don’t occur in the future.
– CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.