On Sunday, March 8, the world was celebrating International Women’s Day. Major search engines designed and featured animations fitting the occasion on their home pages. But Baidu’s Women’s Day logo (or doodle) quickly became an object of ridicule. The image went viral on social media, drawing criticism from all corners of China.

Baidu

Baidu trivializing women?

Baidu and Google took very different approaches, reflecting the contrasting notions of women’s roles in their country and other parts of the world. On its home page, Baidu featured a twirling princess ballerina figurine in a music box. The twirling image slowly transitions from a young girl surrounded by makeup and jewelry to a young woman in a wedding gown, and then into a mother surrounded by strollers and milk bottles.

Social media users heavily criticized the idea Baidu’s doodle promoted. In contrast, Google’s doodle depicted women excelling in different professions including as an artist, scientist, astronaut, chef, volleyball player, musician and teacher. Social media users accused Baidu of trivializing women, reports Shaojie Huang of The New York Times.

A Sina Weibo user with the handle Ru Qing Ru Xiao said Baidu’s Women’s Day doodle “made me sick.” The Chinese still see women as an ornament. A Barbie doll is what happy women should look like in the eyes of many Chinese, added the user. Another Weibo user said Baidu and Google have showed two contrasting views of what this day means.

Baidu’s doodle did not signify empowerment

Guo Weiqing, a professor of gender politics at Sun Yat-sen University, told CNN that Baidu’s image implied that women are there only to look pretty and be taken care of – and the real business should be left to men. That’s exactly the opposite of the International Women’s Day mission. Guo Yuhua, a sociologist at Tsinghua University, said Baidu’s image did not signify the empowerment.

Instead, said Guo Yuhua, it was a stereotype assigned to women by a male-dominated society. Baidu’s communications officer Kaiser Kuo told The New York Times that the doodle was not intended to “objectify women.”