Penn State

Penn State, State College nonprofit respond to social media backlash over ‘sexist’ ad

Penn State removed an ad from the Pregnancy Resource Center from bathroom doors in the HUB-Robeson Center after social media backlash over the message.
Penn State removed an ad from the Pregnancy Resource Center from bathroom doors in the HUB-Robeson Center after social media backlash over the message. Screenshot/Twitter

Penn State has removed an on-campus ad from the Pregnancy Resource Clinic in State College after backlash on social media calling it inherently sexist and in poor taste.

The ad read, “Do you Wonder what that Woman gave you? You could have an STI. Get tested.” It included a depiction of the DC Comics character Wonder Woman in a caricature of a woman’s bathroom sign.

The ad was placed in the “Toilet Paper,” a weekly publication attached in plastic holders onto the back of bathroom stall doors in the HUB-Robeson Center.

Content for the “Toilet Paper” can be submitted by students, staff or non-Recognized Student Organizations to the HUB Marketing Team, according to its website.

Kelsey Denny, a junior at Penn State, said that she saw the ad in a HUB bathroom stall over the weekend and couldn’t believe what she was seeing, sending the initial picture of the ad out via tweet.

“I was devastatingly ashamed that my university would put that in a place where thousands of women are going to see it,” Denny said. “This isn’t just some crevice corner in the library, it’s purposefully placed on the back of a bathroom stall where you’re forced to read it.”

Social media reaction to the ad was swift, with thousands of retweets and reactions on Twitter from those viewing the ad as sexist. One New York-based Twitter account with more than 125,000 followers pointed to statistics from the Centers of Disease Control that college men have on average more than triple the amount of sexual partners as college women and asked why Penn State was participating in “blame shifting.”

On Saturday afternoon, the university responded in a tweet, saying it was “looking into the placement of this ad.”

By Monday morning, Penn State University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the ad had been removed and said they will be reviewing their guidelines and processes.

Denny was happy that the university took the ad down and says that is a good first step, but is still concerned about the fact that it was run in the first place.

“I just think the university has to make a decision about whether they care more about their students or the businesses that are surrounding the university itself,” Denny said. “I hope that this is reflected in the next move that Penn State decides to make about this.”

The nonprofit Pregnancy Resource Clinic, located at 423 Pugh St., also responded to outrage over the ad, apologizing in a Facebook post made early Sunday morning.

“We admit our mistake, our need for learning, and ask for you to accept our apology. You matter to us — even though our mistake looks like we don’t,” the post read. “Thanks for helping us learn how to serve you and those you love and care about better. We will do better. Because you matter.”