Is This Sexy/Sexist Equinox Billboard Really So Bad?

Maybe I’m just a sexist pig, but I fail to get a boner for this allegedly sexist Equinox billboard in Bethesda, Maryland, that has a group of mothers petitioning for its removal. The billboard depicts an attractive young woman, fully clothed in a dress and heels, crawling on a pool table while she shoots a ball with a cue; the tag line, “Dexterity,” is obviously a reference to the fact that she’s bent over in what is both a billiards and doggie style position. The image was photographed by Terry Richardson, known for both his provocative photos and for being a perv with the women he shoots.

According to a petition started by a group called Sexism Matters:

Our daughters and sons walk by the billboard outside Equinox Gym every day. They see a woman in a degrading sexual position, being “celebrated” for her hypersexualized and supposed dexterity, with a pool cue and balls. This is somehow meant to advertise for a fitness facility.

Our children shouldn’t be subjected to this. Our female friends and family shouldn’t be viewed like this, nor forced to conform to it. Our male partners and colleagues shouldn’t be boxed in to thinking this is normal. This is the kind of not-so-subtle sexism that infects our culture, and degrades an entire gender.

We work out to stay healthy. We go to the gym to become stronger. We celebrate our bodies’ abilities on the track, in the pool, and on the court. We do NOT accept the excuses. We will NOT tolerate this billboard. And, we will NOT be joining your gym. We are all too busy working, running, teaching, living, and laughing to be seen as objects.

I’m sympathetic to the concern of children being exposed to advertising that objectifies women by portraying them mainly as sexual objects. Although, I would argue that a woman wearing a dress and heels is something these children probably see every day. Also, most kids wouldn’t pick up on the sex joke in this advertisement.  I certainly don’t think it’s an ad that shouldn’t be seen by adults!  Frankly, I don’t find Bethesda’s Equinox billboard offensive at all. One does not climb on top of a pool table while playing billiards, but the way she’s bending over is the way people lean when they’re playing. It’s a sexual joke, but it’s a sexual joke about something totally true! It’s not as if she’s waving her tush in the air while playing Monopoly.

Nor can I get upset about a gym advertisement which depicts a sexy woman. While I generally agree about the objectification of women in advertising for stuff like, say, soup, what is working out at a gym about about if not bodies? (In Equinox’s case, “sexy” bodies that are considered attractive to the mainstream population.) The health benefits of exercise are not exactly easy to depict conceptually on a billboard, nor should they have to be the primary reason to appeal to customers for exercise. Some people do work out just because they want to look like the woman in this ad.

The only thing that bothers me about this Equinox ad is that it lined Terry Richardson’s pockets. Other than that, these protesters are just being prudes.


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