The Distracted Boyfriend Meme Is Sexist, According To This Swedish Ad Industry Body


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(Fun fact: the auto-caption when you download this from Getty Images is “Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl”.)

Of course you remember him, because his name is Distracted Boyfriend* and he was one of the biggest memes of 2017.

* Probably not his actual name.

Seriously everyone got around this meme.

After the initial post generated a backlash, Bahnhof posted more Distracted Boyfriend memes with cats, Toy Story and Star Wars characters placed over the people in the initial photo, to say it was not about gender.

This meme is popular, wide-ranging in its use, and relevant to finding a job applicant who is interested in internet culture, the company argued. It also said it did not intend for the meme to come across as sexist or as objectifying women.

The Swedish industry body disagreed, finding unanimously that the ad discriminated on the basis of gender.

It found the meme objectified women by suggesting they were interchangeable and defined by their appearance.

You can use humour, exaggeration and irony in advertising, but there’s a risk you reinforce the stereotypes you are seeking to mock, the ruling said.

It found that the woman in red is reduced to a “sex object” in the ad, and pointed out that the women are made to represent the workplaces while the man is displayed as an individual.

Also, the body found the ad is discriminatory against men too, and portrays them in a stereotypical way by showing the Distracted Boyfriend ogling the woman as he walks past.

After the decision, Bahnhof posted a statement on Facebook saying it was just trying to show it was a fun and good place to work.

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