We’d like to applaud Equinox for making this change and realizing – crazy as it may seem – that women work out for other reasons than just being “sexy”. We work out for our physical health, our mental health, to be better athletes, and to live better lives. And, YES, sometimes we work out to be “sexy” – but let’s be clear – your definition of sexy isn’t the same as ours. (stilettos on stairmasters? breaking all the rules of pool? #whodoesthat?)
We’re proud to have been a part of this conversation and we hope Equinox and other organizations take the time to think through the impact of their ad campaigns and not just their shock or sex-selling value . Promoting physical and mental health means more customers, doesn’t it?
Health sells too.
I didn’t grow up in a household with abuse, or hierarchy or judgement. I didn’t grow up in a tough neighborhood, or a big city. When my Ken doll’s legs broke off, I built him a wheelchair out of Legos, so he and Barbie could still go on adventures together. I was the kind of kid who didn’t see limits, or black and white, or social status.
So some days it’s shocking to me just how changed I am, from the little girl who wanted to be the President, hated dresses, and didn’t know a single curse word or what it meant to be “cool”. (Somebody literally had to explain to me what it meant to be cool in second grade). I feel like I fell straight out of a movie – I grew up on a different continent, but somehow ended up assimilating into a plastic culture that I can’t even comprehend.
Some days I am blessed enough to not see it, or have to think about it. Some days it hits me in the face, over and over again like three tons of bricks. My life has been a training in how to be one of the cool crowd, but I certainly didn’t start there.
I remember being in elementary school when I was little, and playing by myself most of the time. I was a nice kind by all accounts (especially my mother’s), but for some reason the other kids thought I was weird. The girls didn’t like me very much, I think mostly because I wasn’t afraid of anything; that and, I didn’t care one bit about what I wore or how I looked. I liked to play soccer and tag, and swing high and sing freely. The other girls liked to play with my-little-ponies on the play ground. The boys didn’t want to play basketball with a girl. I quickly learned what it took to be “cool”. Play house with the girls sometimes, and don’t object when they say “No, you can’t be the hunter. The Daddy hunts.” Don’t block any of the boy’s shots on the court, they hate “being stuffed by a girl”. And most especially, don’t tell your second grade teacher that a group of seven first-grade boys pushed you down and kicked you until your nose bled, because you asked if you could play soccer with them. She won’t care, you shouldn’t be playing with the boys anyway.
Needless to say, elementary school was like an alien planet to me. But, I’m a quick study. Just a few grades later I was drawing hearts on my text books with boy’s names inside, and shopping at the cool stores in the mall. I found a few girls who liked to play sports too, and a few boys who didn’t mind competing with a girl. Middle school was a different story (it always is). One of the first days of class a note was being passed around about me. “Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to take the board out of the shirt before she puts it on?” Yes, I was flat chested. I only let it bother me a little, but I longed to be beautiful and have breasts that boys noticed (gag). I had boyfriends in junior high and one or two in high school, but for the most part I found myself blissfully outside the high drama of dating and sex, and finding meaning in what boys thought of me.
It’s amazing how quickly you learn the rules of the game in college. Frat boys will be frat boys, and sorority girls play their parts. After those four years go by in a drunken haze, you learn the rules of the real world. Find husband – get the biggest diamond you can out of him – have ridiculously expensive wedding – be “happy”.
When I look back at my five year-old self, I sometimes wonder what she would think of who I’ve become. In the last twenty-five years I’ve learned how to be “cute” so guys will like me. I’ve learned how to navigate the work place as a competent, but still demure young woman. I’ve taken sexual harassment and everyday sexism in stride. I’ve plucked my eyebrows, waxed all sorts of things, spent excessive amounts of cash on clothes, and starved myself on occasion so I’ll look good in photos.
But I’ve also stood up for myself countless times. I’ve stood by others who’ve needed my help. I’ve been kind and kept myself free of many of the judgements that society has tried to brainwash me with. I’ve been assertive (though, probably not enough). I’ve taken risks (not nearly enough). I’ve chosen relationships with good partners. I’ve surrounded myself with strong friends who support me. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about my place as a woman in the world, what I want, and how I can help other women achieve their goals.
Still, I think five-year-old me would be a bit disappointed. Did I just let someone bully me? Did I just brush off something that made me uncomfortable? Did I just “let it slide” when someone made an outrageously sexist comment in front of me, because I didn’t want to be “uncool”?
I want to be a person my five-year-old self would be proud of. My life has been a training in how to be one of the crowd, but I certainly didn’t start there. So now I’m trying to find my way back.
A fraternity at Georgia Tech has emailed their brothers a guide to “luring rapebait”. Somehow their tag line “no raping” is supposed to absolve them of the steps they propose to disrespect, degrade, and defile women.
“A short guide consist of the 7 E’s of HOOKING UP! 1. Encounter (spot a girl or group of girls) 2. Engage (go up and talk to them) 3. Escalate (ask them to dance, or ask them to go up to your room or find a couch, depending on what kind of party) 4. Erection (GET HARD) 5. Excavate (should be self-explanatory) 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) 7. Expunge (send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished. IF ANYTHING EVER FAILS, GO GET MORE ALCOHOL.”
Check out the article:
As if rape culture doesn’t exist…
The billboard has come down!
Whether or not the gym took it down “as scheduled” or our little-petition-that-could made a difference – it’s a win for the Bethesda community. A great thanks to all those that have signed, written, called, quit, and stood up against sexism. It may be a “small” victory, but we can’t sit by and expect change to happen all by itself.
Victory is sweet, but there is much more to do. The goal now will be to make sure that Equinox doesn’t put up a new billboard that is equally offensive or worse. We’ll be keeping an eye on Equinox, among other habitual offenders, and if you’d like to stay informed follow/like us on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Wordpress.
Thanks again, and Congratulations!!
Sexism is easy to point out when it’s overt, in-your-face, and/or public. It’s much harder to identify when it’s subtle, implied or routine. While many of the most blatant forms of sexism have been diminished in our culture, we are inundated each day with a different form of sexism. It may subtle but it’s no less insidious. It’s in our schools, on TV, and demonstrated at the highest levels of government – when women and men are boxed into gender roles, hypersexualized, or degraded for their sex. It doesn’t help that this more subtle sexism is seemingly everywhere we turn. It’s overwhelming, but is still often hard to identify. Where do we draw the line between sexy and sexist in advertising? When does appreciation of beauty (female or male) become objectification? How do the images and stereotypes of the super-thin female model, and super-buff male action star shape our perception of gender?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
It’s been 7 days since the launch of Sexism Matters.
In that time:
- we’ve inspired almost 900 thoughtful citizens to support our petition against Equinox Fitness’ sexist billboard in Bethesda.
- we’ve seen this discussion blossom in new forums, large and small, all over the world.
- we’ve heard from supporters and detractors, and started a real dialogue about sexism in our society.
- we’ve just gotten started.
We may be starting small, but every step counts. Sexism isn’t always blatant, intentional, or newsworthy, but even in its smallest form it diminishes the capacity of our society. There is much to do, and we’re up to the challenge.
Dear Adin and Judy:
I understand that you are the managers for the Equinox Gym in Bethesda.
Two weeks ago I was in Bethesda and saw the billboard posted prominently on the facade of your fitness spa.
I was struck with the following thought: what in the world is this trying to sell – A billiard parlor or an escort service?
While I am sure you are more than aware of a petition being circulated which stresses the concern that it is a sexist and degrading image, I have a more important question.
If you are trying to advertise the merits and benefits of your very high end fitness center/spa, then an image that reflects that would be a better idea. I would suggest that Equinox replace the current puzzeling billboard with something a bit more tasteful and more reflective of the business Equinox is in.
If you want to feature “hot bodies” then do so in a way that shows what business you are in – feature them in fitness wear that feature how toned and sexy the physique is. Your company clearly has the high end marketing budget that could do it in a way that I am sure would be artful and sexy without going into the territory of being skanky.
However, if what Equinox means to advertise that the facility has pool tables or that Equinox also offers escort services, then by all means, keep the sign.
Dear Adin and Judy,
I would like to express my distaste and disappointment at the sexist advertisement at the Bathesda Equinox Gym. This advertisement is degrading to women and should be removed immediately. Not only has the image absolutely nothing to do with fitness, it promotes the dangerous idea that women have to be sexy and scantily clad to be considered beautiful. The photo of a muscular female athlete would have been a far more positive image to promote and I hope that you replace your advertising as soon as possible.
Sexism Matters is looking to find solutions and combat sexism – no matter how big, or seemingly small. To that end, we’ve added the “How you can help.” section to our site.
We’re off to a good start, but we know that everyday and epidemic sexism are going to require much more input and work.
Have you had success in combating sexism – big or small? Tell us about it by commenting below, emailing us at SexismMatters@gmail.com, or tweeting @SexismMatters.