Out of touch, outdated, misogynistic – these were just some of the words used by individuals slamming Japanese camera brand Canon for an all-male brand ambassador lineup at a time when inclusivity has become of prime importance.
Canon Philippines last Wednesday, July 14, announced on Facebook and Instagram that it would be relaunching their “Crusader of Light” brand ambassador program. The announcement was accompanied by an image with photos of two ambassadors’ shown, and nine others blurred out to be revealed on a staggered basis.
On July 16, with four photographers still blurred out, at least one individual remained hopeful, commenting, “I hope the rest are women #genderdiversity.”
It didn’t happen.
When it had become obvious that none of the ambassadors would be women, LGBTQ+, or non-binary, the outcry started, asking where the female photographers were. “Women are allowed to use [the] camera in the Philippines, right?” one individual asked sarcastically, among over a thousand critical comments across platforms.
Ezra Acayan, Getty Images photographer and a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist, has been one of the loudest voices, calling the entire affair a “sausage fest.”
“Not a single non-male photographer on this list. Canon Philippines would rather proceed with this failed campaign after being called out (hundreds of comments on their IG and FB) rather than acknowledging their mistakes and promising to do better next time,” Acayan wrote on Canon’s final reveal of its ambassadors.
The photographer added, “So ashamed to be shooting with Canon right now.” He also pointed out how the brand had seemingly not learned anything from its rival Nikon who in 2017 also featured an all-male ambassador lineup.
Gender sensitivity has progressed in the 4 years since the Nikon gaffe but Canon was unable to avoid what has become a major misstep for the brand.
Alora Guerrero, co-founder of tech site Revu.com.ph, in a tweet, said Canon’s selection also reminded her of the casual sexism she sometimes experiences in her work as a tech blogger. “It’s like when someone likes your photo or video, but he or she always assumes it’s taken by [my partner] Monch. When you have your name already included in the content, but people still call you ‘sir.'”
It’s within this continuing sexist culture that the Canon campaign finds itself in – a culture that, given the company’s influence in the industry, could have helped change or at least pushed further along towards inclusivity, and diversity.
In a report by Vice, Filipina music photographer Niña Sandejas explained why representation matters: “Giving women representation to work in these conditions can create a ripple effect elsewhere, making our presence a norm in places where we feel unsafe, that we can walk into it with a sense of security and be able to show our unique perspective and just worry about making great work.”
To that end, Canon Philippines issued a statement on Wednesday, July 21, at 1:15 am on Facebook. Canon invoked its corporate identity of “kyosei,” the Japanese word for “living and working together for the common good,”
“We appreciate learning from your voices in the community. We are listening. Our activities have just kick started and based on your valuable feedback, we will enhance your experience with us. Please continue sharing your opinions with us, so we can improve and grow better, with you,” Canon said.
The statement failed to match the weight of criticisms levied by the community or as Acayan called it, a “non-apology.”
“Where’s the apology for failing to be inclusive in your campaign? Where’s the apology for the insensitive and misogynistic remark (“lady shooters”) made by your staff? And where’s the apology for the elitist and condescending statement made by one of your ambassadors?” Acayan said.
“You managed to use so many words and still say nothing. And why post this non-apology at 1AM when most people are asleep? You had three days to say just two words: ‘We apologize.’ This is so disappointing,” he added.
Earlier, Canon had said that females were represented in their company, citing their “Lady Shooters” program, which many also slammed due to the “misogynistic” terminology used and the refusal to categorize them as photographers.
The “condescending statement” that Acayan may be referring to was by Edwin Martinez, one of the ambassadors, who said on Instagram on Monday, July 19, that he “finds it funny that in this day and age people still jump into conclusions and make use of certain incidents to their (online) advantage.”
“When certain types of people clamor for attention and just blast away with negative comments without getting the facts and the story behind it,” he added.
“Even people who have no relation to the issue are bashed and judged. And these ‘younger demographics’ clamor for attention and yet they have not proven themselves in this craft, but they become the judges and jurors,” Martinez said. He added that the demographics of color grading and presets with “tacky compositions are the outspoken ones,” while those with “real talent remains meek.”
Acayan also shared National Geographic photographer and photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales’ list of Filipino women and non-binary photographers to check out, which included Eloisa Lopez, Pau Villanueva, Cenon at Mav, Wawi Navarroza, Sara Erasmo, Xyza Bacani, Lisa David, Kimi dela Cruz, Regine David, and Dennese Victoria. – Rappler.com