Uber has been forced to apologise after sending a sexist message to customers that appeared to reinforce outdated gender roles.
The promotional message was sent to Uber app users in Bangalore, India on 17 September, which was apparently ‘Wife Appreciation Day’ (who knew?).
“Dear husbands, a gentle reminder – today is Wife Appreciation Day!” read the message. “Order on uberEATS and let your wife take a day off from the kitchen.”
There are two obvious issues here: one, the assumption that only men would read this message (because women don’t have Uber accounts, obvs); and two, the suggestion that women will naturally be cooking for their husbands on every other day of the year.
Twitter users in India and around the world were quick to criticise the multinational taxi app.
“And this year’s winner of ‘the most sexist company on earth’ award goes to…” wrote Bryn Phillips.
“I’ve seen so many #banter posts about this blatant Uber sexism,” tweeted Cally Fox McKay. “Please explain to me how ‘letting your wife take a day off’ is funny?”
In a tweet responding to the controversy, Uber apologised for the message.
This was totally inappropriate. We've removed it and we apologize.— Uber Comms (@Uber_Comms) September 17, 2017
This isn’t the first time that Uber has become embroiled in a row about women’s rights in India – although previous incidents were much more serious. In June, multiple news outlets reported that top Uber executive Eric Alexander had been fired after he obtained the medical records of a woman at the centre of a rape case in Delhi.
Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was sentenced to life in prison for raping a female passenger in November 2015. The case caused widespread outrage in India when it emerged that Yadav had been facing multiple criminal charges, including another rape case, when he became an Uber driver. Uber was denounced for not conducting effective background checks on drivers, and was temporarily banned in Delhi.
The Guardian reports that Alexander, the president of business for Uber Asia Pacific, travelled to India to access the woman’s private medical records with a view to discrediting her story.
Alexander allegedly shared the woman’s medical history with Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick and senior vice-president Emil Michael. The three men reportedly believed that the woman’s rape allegation could be part of a conspiracy to damage Uber by rival firm Ola.
Uber has also been dogged by accusations of sexism outside of India. Earlier this year, a female engineer published a blog post exposing what she said was a toxic and endemic culture of sexual harassment and discrimination for female employees at the tech giant.
A damning harassment review, prompted by Susan Fowler’s post, resulted in more than 20 Uber employees being fired, the BBC reports.
In 2017, we should be able to expect one of the world’s biggest tech companies to promote respectful attitudes towards women. Here’s hoping that Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, represents the start of a new era.
Images: Rex Features / facebook.com/uberuki