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

We have explained this important news using the Distracted Boyfriend stock photo set.

Posted on September 27, 2018, at 2:51 a.m. ET

Remember this guy? Looking approvingly over his shoulder at another woman while his girlfriend basically defines indignation with her face?

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

(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.

You name a situation, it can be explained in Distracted Boyfriend.

And some guy found that there was a whole stock photo set of this trio and their escapades!

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

It's a whole thing.

Anyway, we should stop looking at Distracted Boyfriend memes and tell you the news.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images


A Swedish advertising industry body has weighed in on Distracted Boyfriend, and says the meme is sexist!

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

Me when I first saw this news.

The Swedish advertising ombudsman, which is a self-regulatory organisation and doesn't have sanction powers, received 15 complaints about an ISP named Bahnhof using the meme.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

Me going on to read about this important news while my baby cries.

This is what Bahnhof posted back in April. If you, like us, do not speak Swedish, du means "you" and the text on the woman in the light blue shirt means "your current workplace".

Reklamombudsmannen / Via

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.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

Please don't take my phone, baby, I am trying to read this news.

Bahnhof argued it was just trying to be funny in its bid to attract new job candidates.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

(I lied, I don't have a baby.)

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.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

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.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

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.

It also said if it was going to be punished, it should be for using a meme that was old and tired.

Antonioguillem / Getty Images

Me when I see a meme that is old and tired while my fake baby is crying.

So what do you think?

  1. Is Distracted Boyfriend sexist?

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Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Is Distracted Boyfriend sexist?
    vote votes
    I love this meme but yeah, it kinda is.
    vote votes
    OMG it's a meme. It's not sexist, it's just funny.
    vote votes
    I don't care about this meme or its alleged sexism.
    vote votes
    Did someone get paid to write this? Two people? Oh my god.

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