Equinox, a luxe line of gyms, is calling on everyone to “commit to something” in the New Year with a new ad campaign featuring a model, tatas out, breastfeeding two babies. The brand says it’s trying to address issues related to “women’s rights” with the ad. But steering clear of sexualizing breastfeeding would have been a better choice.
The image is pure fashion fantasy and was shot by famed photographer Steven Klein. Here’s the ad featuring model and socialite Lydia Hearst dripping in jewels dining in a fancy restaurant with a baby feeding at each breast.
Equinox sent out a press release with the ads trying to convince us that this was some sort of statement on behalf of women and breastfeeding mothers. In it, Klein says of the ad:
It is the responsibility of advertising to communicate modern times and social issues. This campaign addresses today’s issues and social commentaries, which is a powerful approach instead of portraying people as superficial objects with no narrative.
Except there’s just one tiny problem with this approach — the problem with breastfeeding is that it’s over-sexualized and treated like some taboo rather than what it really is: feeding a hungry baby. And this ad is just an extension of that problem. There’s nothing sexy or sexual about breastfeeding, and anyone who tries to twist it into some salacious act is doing every mother a disservice.
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See, breastfeeding mothers aren’t trying to turn you on, flaunt their racks, or make a social statement — they just need to feed their babies. And the idea that breastfeeding is some edgy, sexualized experience to be leered at and consumed runs directly counter to what our breastfeeding mothers need — a little respect for what they’re trying to do. They’re not putting on some sexy performance. Again, just feeding the baby, folks. Nothing to see here.
Just last week a female lawmaker stood up for the rights of breastfeeding mothers in New Hampshire and faced the grossest, most sexist backlash imaginable from her male colleagues. She was told her tits were ugly and that men have every right to grab nipples they see in public. And those reactions to breastfeeding are hardly isolated to a few troglodytes in Concord. Advocates for breastfeeding mothers are trying to explain that “hotness” really doesn’t have anything at all to do with a mother needing to feed her screaming kid.
So Equinox, we would like to ask you to “commit” in the New Year to stop sexualizing our breastfeeding mothers and instead maybe try to make your facilities a bit more accommodating to breastfeeding. We reached out to Equinox reps to ask if they have any designated breastfeeding areas or anything else that might help breastfeeding mothers that join up. But as of yet, we haven’t heard back.
Women’s bodies feeding babies isn’t sexy. It’s not a fashion statement. And using an image of a woman breastfeeding for shock value alone certainly isn’t helpful. Which is fine, but let’s not pretend like this ad is helpful for mothers or women in any way.
It’s important that our mothers are seen as humans with needs and emotions, rather than being stripped down to the sum of their lady parts. Our boobs have lots of jobs to do — not all of which are about motorboating and push-up bras. The fact that women are still having to explain that fact is the thing that should make everyone uncomfortable. Treating women as people instead of objects is a commitment worth making that won’t cost Equinox or anyone else a single drop of sweat.