A bathing-suit advertisement in Bristol, England, has created outrage because it features an attractive woman in a bathing suit — and apparently, that’s sexist.
The ad features the woman in a leopard-print suit, along with the name of the fashion brand, which is “I SAW IT FIRST.”
According to a piece in local news source Bristol Live, the campaigning group Adblock Bristol has declared that the billboard is objectifying and sexist and it sends a “harmful message.”
“It’s not surprising that people have been shocked and saddened to find this sexist, harmful ad near their homes and schools this week,” said Nicola Round of Adblock.
“This kind of advertising objectifies women and sends a very harmful message particularly to girls and young women who feel under pressure to meet some impossible ideal of beauty dreamed up by advertisers simply to sell us fast fashion,” Round continued. “We should also question what message this sends to boys and men.”
Round also stated that the ad “is unashamedly preying on people’s insecurities and saying ‘buying this latest trend will make you happier and popular.’”
“This is bad for our well-being and bad for the environment, particularly as this ad clearly promotes a disposable model of fashion where trends change by the day,” she said.
Despite all the backlash, I SAW IT FIRST is standing behind the advertisement.
“I SAW IT FIRST is a fashion brand led by a team of strong females who created a swimwear campaign that they are all extremely proud of,” a spokesperson for the brand stated.
“As you can see from Armani Exchange, I SAW IT FIRST’s swimwear billboards are far less sexual and although it is never our intention to make anyone feel unhappy, or that we’re sending a harmful message to young people, I SAW IT FIRST are simply advertising swimwear in a way that is aligned with its peers,” the spokesperson continued.
The spokesperson is obviously right. Honestly, I can’t even believe that this is a controversy. Selling a line of bathing suits using an image of someone wearing one of those bathing suits is far from an absurd idea. In fact, some people might even call it normal. It would be one thing if a bikini-clad woman was being used to sell cheeseburgers, à la Carl’s Jr. ads. Personally, I don’t have a problem with those ads, either — and I think that the people who do really need to chill out — but at least there I can kind of understand the logical flow of the argument. All this ad is doing is advertising the product that it is trying to sell. It uses a woman in a bathing suit because it is trying to sell bathing suits to women. This is no more offensive than a toothpaste ad featuring teeth, or a lawnmower ad featuring a person mowing the lawn. Advertisements featuring the product that they’re advertising is kind of how advertising works.
All this ad is doing is advertising the product that it is trying to sell. It uses a woman in a bathing suit because it is trying to sell bathing suits to women.
Speaking of “how advertising works,” Round is completely ridiculous for criticizing the ad for suggesting that people would be happier if they bought the product. Um . . . duh. That’s the whole point of advertising in the first place. The whole reason that a company puts out an ad is to try and get people to think that they will be happier if they purchase the product that’s being advertised. If Round has a problem with this ad for that reason, she doesn’t just have a problem with this ad — she has a problem with all ads.
Round may say that it’s normal for people to be “shocked” and “saddened” by this ad, but I’m more shocked and saddened that anyone could have such a stupid opinion. Sexism is a very real, very serious issue that all women struggle with on a regular basis. Lumping in complete nonsense like having a problem with a bathing-suit ad of a bathing suit with these kinds of serious struggles only diminishes their seriousness — and Adblock Bristol should be ashamed of itself for doing so.