Culture

U.K. Bans Body-Positive Video Game Ad for Sexually Objectifying Women 

Model Tabria Majors in Mobile Strike’s ad (image via YouTube)
A government agency found the ad featuring plus-size models to be offensive.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a video-game ad featuring plus-sized models wearing swimsuits on the grounds that it “sexually objectified women.”

In case you’re not familiar with U.K. law, its ASA has the power to demand that any ad be removed for a broad range of subjective reasons — and, as Heat Street notes, they’re certainly not afraid of using it. Both an underwear ad and an anti-begging ad were banned under the standards last year. 

The ad that’s been banned this time was a promotion for the game Mobile Strike and features women in swimsuits playing the game on their phones.

“The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised—a combat-themed mobile game app,” the ASA stated, according to Heat Street. “We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or sexually-charged.”

Now, according to the ASA’s summary of the case, the ad’s creators said “the intention was to feature ‘real-sized’ women and reference mythical warrior women like Amazons and ‘Wonder Woman.’” The video-game industry has been repeatedly attacked for using female characters with “unrealistically” attractive body types, so it makes all the sense in the world that they’d try to counter that by making a body-positive ad. In 2015, there was even an ad campaign that adapted the bodies of female characters to make them look more “realistic,” and it was lauded everywhere from the Huffington Post to CNN

Yes, these were bathing-suit wearing women, and not characters in a game — but actually, that’s what makes this decision especially ironic. One of the things that ultimately led to giving the ASA broad authority to ban “sexist” ads was the public backlash over a Protein World ad that featured a fit woman in a swimsuit with the words, “Are you beach body ready?” A petition against the ad received more than 50,000 signatures on the grounds that featuring the words “Are you beach body ready?” next to a fit, hot woman sent the message that only fit, hot women were allowed to put on bathing suits and head to the beach. And now — now — an ad that sends the message that women who aren’t fit can be proud to wear swimsuits is also not okay? 

According to Heat Street, the ASA stated that it had “noted that the ad featured plus-sized models,” but ultimately “considered that fact” to be “irrelevant.”

“For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women and was therefore offensive.”

This is obviously absurd. We are talking about an ad that was the direct opposite of an ad that was so widely considered “offensive.” And now this ad is offensive, too? Oh, and also, the video-game industry is consistently criticized for ignoring female gamers, and this was an ad literally featuring female gamers. It was a female-gamers-featuring, body-positive ad, and yet, it was apparently still too problematic to exist. 

So, what’s the solution? Just not feature women in ads, to avoid portraying women in the wrong way? To demand that women are always fully clothed? Because that sounds a little more like Saudi Arabia to me. 

The fact that part of their reasoning was that the ad “bore no relation to the product” is ridiculous. First of all, it’s incorrect, because the women are clearly playing the game being advertised on their phones. But even aside from that, advertisers should be allowed, within reason, to advertise their products the way that they see fit. 

Oh, and as for the reasoning that it needed to be banned because, “in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive”? Um . . . so what. Believe it or not, sometimes women are seductive. I thought that the liberal, feminist side was supposed to stand up for women’s right to be sexual without being shamed for it? Say what you want about conservatives, but it seems more and more like the people on the other, ban-happy side are the ones acting like the modern-day Puritans. 

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