Sexism Matters, That Equinox Ad Doesn’t

Lindsay Beyerstein

An Equinox gym in California displays the disputed billboard image along with other advertisements (Clotee Allochuku / Flickr / Creative Commons).

A group of mothers in Bethesda is taking the mantle of feminism to advance the cause of prudery. The moms are up in arms about a local billboard for Equinox Gym and they are gathering signatures to get it taken down.

From the Potomac Patch:

It’s one of these mom power things,” said Pam Holland, one of the women behind Sexism Matters, which has started a petition on Change​.org to ask for the removal of the billboard.

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,” Sexism Matters posted on its petition site.

The black and white billboard shows a woman in a mini-dress crouching on a pool table, setting up a trick shot. The headline says Dexterity by Equinox.” It’s a marketing pitch to women: Working out at Equinox will make you beautiful, confident, and a badass pool player like the model in the picture.

Obviously, our society is overly preoccupied with being thin and beautiful and as feminists we should have something to say about that. Also, as you may have heard, ads often fall short of the unvarnished truth. But I don’t know why this ad deserves to be singled out for opprobrium compared to any billboard you’d see in downtown Manhattan or any ad in any glossy magazine on newsstands this week.

As a feminist and a former copywriter, I get annoyed when scantily clad women are used to sell tires and other products where their exposed flesh bears no logical relation to the sales pitch. But Equinox is a gym. They’re in the beautiful body business. Their sales pitch, which amounts to work out to be more fit, confident and graceful,” comes closer to truth in advertising than 99 percent of what Madison Avenue throws at us.

Other ads in the same campaign sexualize the male physique in much the same way. So, it’s not like Equinox is singling out women as objects of the male gaze.

There’s nothing in this image that seems hateful or threatening. It’s not like the pornified American Apparel ads where the women look underage or frightened. The worst you can say about the Equinox ad is that it’s silly and insufferably pretentious.

The moms are playing into Equinox creative director Bianca Kosoys hands. She wants to make a boring old gym for stock brokers seem edgy by inflecting G-rated ads with a vaguely pornified aesthetic. The New York Post story linked to in the Patch piece quotes social conservatives Mark Regenrus and Kay Hymowitz having the vapors about the whole thing. Mission accomplished!

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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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