International Women’s Day Done Wrong: Frida Kahlo Barbie, Oxford University Cleaning Lady, McDonald’s Gaffe

A McDonald's store turns its golden arches upside down to celebrate International Women's Day.
Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

The origin of International Women’s Day, an annual event celebrating the achievement of women, can be traced as far back as 1909, but until now, some people just can’t get the holiday right. Amid the different ways the event is celebrated, the likes of Mattel, McDonald’s, and even Oxford University apparently failed to honor women the right way.

Mattel had the right idea of creating Barbie doll versions of real female heroes or what they call “Shero.” The toy-maker introduced 14 new Barbie Sheroes including Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, boxer Nicola Adams OBE, and Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin. Mattel did its Barbie Sheroes line right by featuring a diverse set of female role models with African-Americans and Asians well-represented.

The company also unveiled three new Barbie dolls for its Inspiring Women series, namely Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson, and Frida Kahlo. Unfortunately, a number of people had issues with the Kahlo Barbie.

Mattel may face “necessary measures” for the use of Kahlo’s image without “proper authorization” from the Mexican icon’s family, according to USA Today. Mara Romeo, the legendary painter’s great-niece and the “sole owner of the rights of the image of the illustrious Mexican painter Frida Kahlo,” was apparently not consulted by the toy company.

The main problem with the Kahlo Barbie is that Mattel skipped the most iconic feature of the artist and activist – her unibrow.

“I would have liked the doll to have traits more like Frida’s, not this doll with light-colored eyes,” Romeo said.

Oxford University was also criticized after a photo of a woman cleaning the Clarendon steps went viral. The photo taken and tweeted by associate professor of political theory Dr. Sophie Smith shows a cleaning lady scrubbing off graffiti, which read “Happy International Women’s Day” from the steps of the university. Behind the woman, whose face was covered, is a group of male security officers.

The university has since issued an apology for the incident, according to CBS News. However, Dr. Smith said Oxford University should offer a heartfelt apology directly to the woman who was made to clean up after a rally celebrating International Women’s Day.

Fast food giant McDonald’s also didn’t escape scrutiny during International Women’s Day. The company flipped its Golden Arches to resemble a “W,” which it said symbolizes women, TIME reported. The irony here, as Eater pointed out, is that McDonald’s has been against providing better benefits such as a living wage to its employees, many of whom are women. Critics also questioned the authenticity of McDonald’s efforts to celebrate women.

McDonald's honros women on International Women's Day by turning its golden arches into a "W," which stands for "women."
  Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

McDonald’s is not the only food brand that earned the ire of many for how they celebrated International Women’s Day.

In Malaysia, Kentucky Fried Chicken replaced Colonel Sanders in the logo with his second wife Claudia, Marketing Interactive reported. Colonel Sanders is accused by his own daughter Margaret of having a “libido which required a healthy, willing partner.” The KFC icon apparently “found one in the young Claudia.”