The first I knew about the Adidas billboard was when a photo of it was shared in one of those super-secret WhatsApp groups where dinosaurs and shrill sirens mingle with powerful lesbians and multi-millionaire benefactors.
A woman (let’s call her Tricia) was out for a walk when she came across a new billboard under a bridge on Old Street in East London.
“Went out for a short walk to clear my head and this is what I fucking see,” she posted, with these pictures:
I check out Twitter and sure enough, Adidas has posted a similar montage and is wallowing in the warm waters of sex-positive wokeness.
“We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”
In reply to the first few nay-sayers, their social media guru replies:
“Breasts are a natural part of the anatomy. It’s time to remove the stigma to allow future generations to flourish.”
“Will you be putting up a billboard featuring a load of cocks next, @adidas ? After all, penises are also ‘a natural part of the anatomy’. No? I thought not.” I asked.
Of course, they didn’t reply. Over 10,200 other people have commented on the photo and many of them had already made the same point.
Adidas would not, of course, run an advert featuring scores of unique penises, and even if they did the repercussions wouldn’t be comparable because men do not regularly face harassment and objectification because of their knobs.
Their tweet has- at the time of writing – 33,000 ‘likes’, 5,000 retweets and a hefty and impressive 10,400 quote tweets. High fives all round in the marketing department I should imagine.
As for the flourishing of future generations, well, I wonder if German-owned Adidas is running this advert in China, Vietnam and Cambodia, where its shoes and clothing are made. Will it appear on billboards there? I suspect that the young people of those countries may have to find other resources to help them flourish.
“The billboard is huge. I’m shaking. It’s so fucked up.”
Back to WhatsApp.
Tricia asked if someone on Twitter could share the photos and I was happy to oblige.
“This advert is up on a massive billboard, on a main road in London, in a heavy drinking area, under a small bridge… a friend just walked past it and messaged a group of us “The billboard is huge. I’m shaking. It’s so fucked up.””
“Why is this person shaking? Seems a little overwrought.” asks one man on twitter.
“What is a ‘heavy drinking area’ and how is it relevant to this poster?” asked another.
Oh boys, boys, boys.
Most women could hazard a guess that she was shaking because she felt angry or powerless in this situation. Bloke-on-Twitter can call that an ‘overwrought’ response if he must. It’s not an experience he is ever going to have.
Likewise most women would know that the area is relevant, because we’ve all walked home at pub kicking-out time and run the gauntlet of leery, motor-mouthed pissheads. There are scores of pubs in the Old Street area, frequented by a young-ish demographic that likes to party. It’s a safe bet to assume that a massive poster embellished with 62 pairs of tits will not fill the average drunk bloke with high ideals of diversity and potential for personal growth as he ambles towards the tube station. It certainly won’t make him want to go out and purchase a sports bra, but you can bet it will grab his attention.
It’s only a bit of harmless fun
Oh those horrible feminist killjoys.
The reason some women don’t embrace objectification, the thought process seems to go, is because nobody wants to objectify them. They’re jealous. They probably hate sex anyway. They want to spoil everybody’s fun. They are probably too old/stupid/ugly for anybody to want to look at their tits. etc etc. Cast objectors in the bitch/witch role and- because we live in a superficial, misogynistic and ageist culture- their ideas are easier to dismiss.
But let’s cast aside the chiffon feel-good veil of wokeness for a minute and really think about the context in which these photogrpahs are being used.
Adidas has pulled off several clever advertising tricks here, running a high profile ad campaign that doesn’t even feature the product. The sports bra range is likely to be a great success: despite the advertising premise being bland, brazen and as old as the hills – the commodification of women’s bodies for profit. It’s a ploy that we are subjected to so constantly and in so many ways that most of the time most of us don’t even notice. Tits sell! Covered or uncovered, in push up bras or sports bras.
There are hundreds of comments on Adidas’ tweet and many of them are upbeat. Some women enthuse about body positivity and liberation. Here are some comments from women who see it a little differently.
“… there’s something to be said about women’s breast put on display like this… Like just- meat at a market? Reduced to literal body parts cut off from the rest of the body?”
“There are many ways to acknowledge/celebrate our differences without further objectifying us.”
“No identification. No faces. Chopped up by the camera. Serial killer vibe.”
“Ugh. This feels like the photos of victims’ bodies someone would drag out of a police folder on Law and Order. Talk about reducing people to their body parts.”
“It’s never a good idea to chop us up.”
In contrast, here are some of the comments from men that Adidas has seen fit to hide.
Not my finest wank.
Think you guys could sort me out with sumn for my dog?
Not one nice rack in the lineup.. Sad..!
The last comment – despite being hidden by Adidas- has 587 ‘likes’.
Flourishing my arse
Slapping pictures of disembodied tits on massive billboards in any culture that obsessively objectifies female breasts is not going to do women and girls any favours. Adidas is right that there should be no stigma surrounding women’s breasts, but unfortunately there is. That stigma enables Adidas to exploit shock value to generate publicity and make money from the very cultural protocol which it claims to wish to erase.
It is hard to imagine that the people in the ad department really believe that schoolgirls are going to flourish as they walk under that poster and along the street to class. Do they imagine that some schoolboys won’t make lewd comments and ask the girls ‘which tits look most like yours?’ Can they really believe that viewing photographs of disembodied rows of breasts will make insecure women and girls feel valued for more than their bodies?
Do they imagine that women are going to flourish as they walk past the poster after a night out and drunk blokes leer and laugh at them? Do they imagine that drunk men are going to look at the poster and undergo an epiphany?
Because they fucking aren’t. They’re going to look at the poster and think one thing. T-I-T-S.
“Show us ya tits, love.”
Adidas knows that sex sells. Is it somehow less objectifying because the breasts photographed don’t all conform to stereotypical standards of beauty? The company will have predicted the inevitable outrage from feminists and parents and the surge in complaints. They will have been counting on it. Don’t for one second think anybody at Adidas gives a shit about future generations flourishing in a world free of body shaming, or that they genuinely wish to improve diversity.
They want to sell you clothes and make a lot of money.
Postscript: Tits out for the LADidas
This afternoon I was added to a new group by Bella who’d decided she was going to do something about the billboard. Chalk? Paint? Spray? Stickers? How big was the billboard? How high up could they reach? They found a photographer. I said I would blog about their mission. They were set to go! What should the slogan be?
‘Say no to Sexercise’ suggested Sita, or ‘Badidas’ or ”Tits out for the LADidas’.
In the end they decided on ‘our boobs are not your billboards’.
Sadly there is no story because the mission was not to be. A scout returned to report that the billboard had been removed at some point today and replaced with an advert for a film.
Has the billboard been moved elsewhere? Will there be more springing up? Or has the boob montage been quietly retired, having done its job in stirring up a little tsunami of publicity and profit surrounding the latest in women’s sportswear?
You can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority here.
Thanks for this essay. I’ve made a complaint to the ASA about it; your details were so helpful.