A University Welcome Box Included Some Promotional Material That Some People Think Is Sexist

    "I bet they thought they smashed it."

    A student welcome pack for the University of Sussex has caused some outrage after it featured a suggestive advert for an oral hygiene brand.

    Imagine being a bright and eager female student excited to have been accepted into one of the UK's leading research universities (@SussexUni) and you find this in your welcome bag: https://t.co/wfKdr0ODd4 Sexism is sexism even when it's "a joke." Women deserve better than this. https://t.co/Q8epaGuvM8

    A double-sided promotional card for Brush Box featured what appears to be a woman's mouth complete with toothpaste foam.


    On the reverse side is the message: "Whether you spit or swallow as part of your (twice...) daily oral regime, place your oral health on autopilot with Brushbox."


    The highly suggestive advertising has prompted criticism of the university for including it in boxes designed to welcome new students.

    @8RosarioSanchez @decouvrir_x @SussexUni Fucking hell! I bet they thought they'd smashed it when they came up with this idea, had a drink over it, arranged the artwork, created the image, the wording, the work that went into this insult and no-one thought there was anything wrong with it?

    @8RosarioSanchez @SussexUni Who on earth thought this was a good idea? Let me guess, was it a teenage boy?

    Some critics felt that the message was damaging to incoming female students.

    @8RosarioSanchez @SussexUni How very disappointing @SussexUni. We do not raise strong, articulate young women for them to be treated this way. Nor do we educate our thoughtful young men to tolerate it this behaviour towards their cohort.

    @8RosarioSanchez @lumi_1984 @SussexUni Wtf is this supposed to be? I'm a bloke who went through university in the 80s, and I'd have been outraged to have seen this stuff back then. Totally unacceptable now. @SussexUni should be ashamed of themselves.

    @8RosarioSanchez @SussexUni This is disgusting. I weep for young women. @SussexUni ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    And some people pointed out another flaw in the campaign. You don't swallow toothpaste.

    @8RosarioSanchez @SussexUni This is disgusting and insulting. Also, my dental hygienist told me when I was seven that you should never swallow toothpaste on purpose, so it's also wrong in health terms.

    The university responded to tweets to tell concerned critics that they understood the "strong reaction" that that Brushbox advert.

    @8RosarioSanchez We can absolutely see why this promotional material in @USSU freshers packs has sparked such a strong reaction. We’re sure this discussion will continue and that @USSU and other student unions will feed back the reaction to the company responsible.

    A University of Sussex Students’ Union spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We were very disappointed to find this promotional material in our Dig-In boxes, and will be reviewing whether to renew our contract with this supplier.”

    Brushbox hails itself as the UK’s first toothbrush and toothpaste subscription service and has over 4,500 subscribers.

    A BrushBox spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "We are really sorry if anyone has been offended by the promotional image used in the Dig-In boxes. We now realise it was inappropriate and misguided of us to use this type of image as a way to raise awareness of dental health issues.

    “We completely understand that the image could be deemed as derogatory to women and for that we are truly sorry - this was never our intention, and we take full responsibility for any upset it has caused.

    “BrushBox is a company which prides itself on its family and ethical ethos and we are very disappointed that something which was meant to encourage good health habits amongst students has caused any offence."

    Dig-In, the company responsible for curating the welcome box has responded to the demands for accountability by issuing an apology.

    The company told BuzzFeed News: “Dig-In would like to apologise unreservedly for its part in distributing Brushbox’s promotional material. This insert, distributed in our Freshers boxes does not in any way reflect our high ethical standards and we have put immediate measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again."

    Ade Onibada is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Ade Onibada at ade.onibada@buzzfeed.com.

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here