Intel China removes ad featuring female standup comedian after complaints from unhappy male internet users

Society & Culture

Intel China caught fire with male netizens for putting on an ad featuring a feminist comedian, and then with female users for taking the ad down.

“Why are men so mediocre, yet so confident?” asks comedian Yáng Lì杨笠. Via Rock&Roast WeChat Account

Global semiconductor giant Intel’s Chinese office took down an advertisement featuring Yáng Lì杨笠, a female standup comedian known for her sarcastic jokes about men. Intel was reacting to complaints from offended male internet users.

Yang offers a rare critical voice on male behavior in the Chinese standup comedy community, which is dominated by male comedians who often use women’s age, appearance, and professional abilities as punchlines. Yang’s jokes — including a one liner that became an online sensation: “men are so mediocre, yet so confident” — are popular with a female audience, but have led to an online backlash mainly from male commenters.

A “men’s rights” activist and anti-feminist filed a compliant to China’s media regulator accusing Yang of “being biased against men,” “repeatedly insulting all men,” and “inciting gender-biased antagonism.”

That did not deter Intel China from featuring Yang Li in advertising. Last week Friday, the company posted a video ad on the Twitter-like platform Weibo to promote its Intel Evo laptops, which the company claims meet a series of high standards for hardware and software. In the ad, Yang says that “Intel’s taste in laptops is even better than my standards for a boyfriend.”

The ad received thousands of comments on Weibo, the majority of which were from men who took offense. On Monday, Intel took the ad down, just over two days after it was posted.

The critics complained that a hardware company like Intel mainly relies on male customers, and said that women “don’t know much about computers” and “won’t buy your CPUs.” Many protested by posting their purchase receipts or photos of computers powered by AMD, Intel’s major competitor, with a hashtag “AMD, Yes!”

“Intel, I want you to know who are those people that are buying your high-end CPUs. Don’t be naive and think that ‘feminazis’ are going to buy your 11th generation processor, maybe they can’t even differentiate CPU and GPU,” said one commenter (in Chinese).

Intel China took down the ad from its Weibo and other social media and ecommerce platforms on Monday, despite positive comments and support from female and some male users. Intel said in a statement that it “did not expect” the ad could lead to a broad controversy, and said the company values “diversity and inclusiveness.”

But by placating one group of internet users, Intel enraged another: Hundreds of women rushed to the American tech giant’s social media accounts, including western platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, to voice their concerns about the potential negative impact on China’s feminist movement if a large multinational company like Intel is willing to take down a female icon’s ad because of male complaints.

Under Intel’s latest Instagram post in honor of Women’s History Month, over 700 commenters voiced their support for Yang Li and urged the company to restore her ad. “The withdrawal of her AD in response to the boycott against Li showed the acceptance of female hate by Intel China,” a user posted in English.

“The reversion of the consideration of Yang Li as an endorser by Intel China is, no doubt, a shameful act of concession to male chauvinism,” another user commented on Intel’s Instagram. “And what makes it even more ridiculous is that this happened in 2021.”