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Group Says Gym Ad Is Sexist, Demands Gym Take It Down

by Aaron Kraut — July 1, 2013 at 10:05 am 18,192 35 Comments

Controversial Equinox gym window ad

UPDATED 3:30 p.m. Tuesday A group this weekend began a petition to get the Equinox gym on Bethesda Row to take down a window photo it says degrades women and shouldn’t be used to advertise a fitness facility.

Sexism Matters, which launched a blog on Friday, wants the New York-based gym to get rid of the image, which shows a woman in a dress, on her knees on top of a pool table holding a pool stick.

The gym (4905 Elm St.) has windows that face Woodmont Avenue, where the photo has been placed. The ad campaign invited controversy from the beginning, when it was introduced early last year.

Sexism Matters says the ad on the outside of the Bethesda gym poses a particular problem for children who walk by the building. The petition is on Change.org:

Our daughters and sons walk by the billboard outside Equinox Gym every day. They see a woman in a degrading sexual position, being “celebrated” for her hypersexualized and supposed dexterity, with a pool cue and balls. This is somehow meant to advertise for a fitness facility.

Our children shouldn’t be subjected to this. Our female friends and family shouldn’t be viewed like this, nor forced to conform to it. Our male partners and colleagues shouldn’t be boxed in to thinking this is normal. This is the kind of not-so-subtle sexism that infects our culture, and degrades an entire gender.

We work out to stay healthy. We go to the gym to become stronger. We celebrate our bodies’ abilities on the track, in the pool, and on the court. We do NOT accept the excuses. We will NOT tolerate this billboard. And, we will NOT be joining your gym. We are all too busy working, running, teaching, living, and laughing to be seen as objects.

Judy Taylor, the vice president of public relations for Equinox said the billboard has been up since January and will come down in mid-July as previously scheduled.

  • Mary C Valko

    what a shame…is this store located next to an Abercrombie? I hope it is removed because it is just plain WRONG.

    • Bethesdaman

      No but it is located right above a pizza shop! Not kidding…it really is.

      • herpderp

        Do they play pool there? Because if they do, it could be false advertisement.

    • ZeroCorpse

      Nobody seems to have a problem with the Naked Cowboy exploiting the male body in public, nor does anyone raise a fuss over the covers of romance novels directed at women, featuring the bare-chested, buff, sexually-compromised male stereotypes.

      There’s nothing pornographic about this image. It’s sexually-charged, but it’s no worse than women see in their own books, magazines, and clothing stores. Pick out any current mural in a GAP store and it’s probably racier than this.

      I just don’t like the double-standards when it comes being outraged over things like this. Either take down the pics of half-naked, perfect-bodied male models all over the city, or deal with it.

  • Brigitte

    OMG! Do Americans (and the population of Bethesda) not have BIGGER problems than to get “offended” about something like this??? Really! SMH!

    • Mejustme

      Here’s the real problem.

      Equinox has stated that the billboard will come down in mid-July pursuant to their schedule (see the last paragraph above). It appears that they will not be intimidated by some unknown feminist group who just launched a blog on Friday.

      What really tans my hide is that, come mid-July, when this ad is removed, Sexism Matters will claim a ‘major victory’ against the ‘sexist’ health club Equinox. The real question is, did Sexism Matters plan it that way?

      Look, sexism hurts. The ad above is no more sexist that countless other objectifications of both men and women. Don’t use a billboard scheduled for removal as a firestarter for a weak organization.

      To Sexism Matters: Get a grip, get a life, and get lost.

  • cbkcc1

    well, it is wrong, that is definitely not a legal shot according to the BCA

  • Leigh Byrnes

    It’s about time somebody did something to take this down. Being subjected to images like the above teaches people to sexually objectify the female body. It sends a message that women should be physically fit so as to be favorably looked upon as a pleasure object. What about health? What we see on TV and in movies is already an overdose of female objectification, but now we need to be further subjected to these kinds of images on the streets? No.

  • DBOneTime

    Those are the trade offs of living in Bethesda and not NYC- which I miss in these moments. Too many liberal Mom’s who micro-manage everything in their environment, listserv, neighborhood, etc. Pray for their husbands – who I am sure don’t mind the billboard. Equinox is NYC based and their messaging is going to show it. You want to be a big city Bethesda – act like one.

  • bob

    sex sells

  • Graham

    Grab stick. Remove from arse.

  • Guest

    I suppose this same outrage should also apply to stores like Victoria’s Secret, Benetton or Abercrombie too where you complainers are shopping for your underwear or kids’ clothes, right? Don’t you find those things degrading too? I heard about this ad on the news (radio) and imagined something much worse. Then, I saw the photo and it made me think of advertising for just about any other product these days. Heck, half the magazines that are read by these “outraged” parents display far worse on their covers at the checkout at grocery stores. Are you complaining then? I think not! I think it’s a hypocrisy personally. It simply looks like any other fashion-related ad and these people want to sit and complain all day about something. How about you go through your home and find all the “offensive” things you actively and knowingly purchased and throw that stuff out first. Then you may have a standing when you complain about this, until then just shut it.

  • Merujo

    I thought billboards were verboten in MoCo? (Hence the poor guys sweating in mattress costumes on Rockville Pike.)

  • The Java Master

    Doggie style in the corner pocket? Yes– offensive as all get out….

  • ExNuke

    That’s just wrong. Who the hell thinks it’s okay to wear high heels on the pool table?

  • fatboyinde

    I’d chalk her up and cue her, while keeping one foot on the ground.

  • guestfortoday

    I’m appalled at this billboard. It is an affront to our children. The Rules of Billiards clearly call for both feet to be on the floor when the shot is taken. When our children see this, they will think they can climb all over the table. That leads to anarchy. Before you know it, they’ll be drinking beer and saying words like “heck”. Then they’ll be publishing NSA secrets and running from the government, all because of this billboard. Yes my friends, we got trouble.

    • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

      No. The rules require that ONE foot (even just the very tip of the toe) be in contact with the floor at the moment the stroke is played. Stop lying to the people under the guise of thwarting anarchy, man

  • George Gray

    This picture is wrong on so many counts…first of all, she is playing 9 ball. That means that she needs to shoot the balls in order, but she is clearly going after the 5 ball when the 1 ball is still on the table. If they want to make this sexist, then they can talk about the fact that after this shot she will be awarding the next player a ball-in-hand.

    • Ted

      No she isn’t. There are clearly other striped balls on the table (no pun intended)

      • ambassgray

        you are correct…my bad

  • Bill Marshall

    replace it with a man doing something similar with six pack abs and swap every other day…
    The real complaints are coming from the Bethesda hous fraus who could’nt use their body to sell a gym membership unless it was to be the “before” picture.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    Women should be proud of being hot and sexy. They should photoshop a burka on her and see how that goes over.

    • KY3 Democrat

      Can you wear high heels in a burka? I think that would be pretty hot…

  • mambobananapatch

    Bet everyone at Sexism Matters is overweight.

  • Harold Hill

    Trouble, oh we got trouble,

    Right here in River City!

    With a capital “T”

    That rhymes with “P”

    And that stands for Pool,

    That stands for pool.

    We’ve surely got trouble!

    Right here in River City,

    Right here!

    Gotta figger out a way

    To keep the young ones moral after school!

  • Drseussman

    One foot must remain on the floor at all times if you don’t want to bridge your pool shot. That being said, NICE ADD! Too many clothes though.

  • mambobananapatch

    > We are all too busy working, running, teaching, living, and laughing to be seen as objects.

    Apparently not to busy to be whining about how unattractive they are.

  • Tom Peppermint

    I am offended by Sexism Matters’ claiming to know what’s best for society.

  • Adeno Sine

    “I am outraged because the woman is being sexually objectified in that billboard!”

    No, the woman on the picture maintained a healthy lifestyle and that’s why she looks sexy and pretty. No matter what she wears, she’ll always be sexy. Jealousy is not the answer to obesity. Discipline, exercise, and medical help should lead to a good and healthy figure.

  • bob

    “We are all too busy working, running, teaching, living, and laughing to be seen as objects.”

    Then why be so bothered by it?

  • Ryan Farr

    Dear sexismmatters,
    I rarely comment on stories I see online, but this one just got under my skin. I do not understand why anyone finds this ad offensive enough to demand its removal. Whether it be on TV, radio, or in print, thousands of businesses, both big and small, employ unorthodox ad techniques. Techniques that include symbolism or ad content that barely hints at what the ad is actually for. Using beauty to sell a product is a tactic that is the corner stone of capitalism. It is also a tactic that uses both attractive women and MEN. Has our society gotten so lazy that it is just easier to tear down the things we don’t like or agree with rather than taking the time to teach their children what they DO believe in. Rather than trying to instill them with concepts like morality and respect for the opposite sex. Do parents really think that an ad with a scantily clad model can compete with good parenting. Why should have to sterilize out whole society when the real problem is in our homes and families.


  • John Hattabaugh

    wow…she has my vote for the dexterity issue…but in all seriousness, much-ado-about-nothin’ is the order of the day, for this billboard. for me it’s a non-isuue-issue. sorry, i can’t really get all worked up over this.

  • Leigh Byrnes

    You are incredibly ignorant and rude. For your information, I am 25 years old, have no children, I’m 5’8″, 125 lbs, physically fit, blonde, and by many accounts (bracing for a wave of people to criticize me for saying this), physically attractive. Some people seem to have the notion that the only people who are offended by ads like these are fat, unattractive women, and that’s just preposterous. As a young, attractive woman, I know what it feels like to be leered upon by men, and no, I don’t find it flattering. I understand that people are curious creatures and of course there is nothing wrong with a casual glance, but some men feel entitled to undress me, and other women, with their eyes. This unwanted attention makes me feel uncomfortable in my own body, as if I am nothing more than a sexual object. As a man, you have no idea what it feels like to be viewed like this on a daily basis, so you have no right to dismiss it. Women are people too, and being constantly subject to images with their bodies splayed out in all sorts of strange and sexually provocative positions like empty vessels and sexual playthings is offensive, and it teaches boys that it’s OK to view women like this, while it teaches girls to aspire to be viewed like this.

    I’m sure that you would tell me that it’s somehow my fault that I attract attention. But I do not wear revealing clothes, the clothes I wear fit my body and don’t show much skin, but I suppose I should wear a burka in order to prevent men from looking.

    It’s not the fact that there is an attractive woman or scantily clad woman in the ad that offends me, it’s the fact that she is on her knees, in a doggy style position, and she is not even taking a shot that is legal in billiards. And for what, to sell gym memberships? It’s a frivolous use of female sexuality, and not one that empowers women. You can have sexuality without objectification.

    What’s really sad is that many people fail to see the big deal, because they are so accustomed to images like the above. I guess that people are so shortsited that unless they have to see an immediate cause and effect, they won’t believe that negative consequences can result. These sexually degrading images have a subtle and pervasive negative impact on our society when used ubiquitously to sell things. I suppose you’d need to see your daughter (if you have one) rolling around on a pool table in a skimpy outfit in front of a bunch of male friends to understand that. It would be nice to have more people actually giving thought to sexism, instead of lazily waving their hand in the air and making jokes to automatically dismiss it

  • http://www.billiardfactory.com/ Debbie Smith

    Wow… so much fuss about this billboard? The only thing wrong with this photo that I can see is the fact that both her legs are completely over the pool table – the rule requires you to have atleast one foot down on the ground while taking the shot.

    Since they got so worked up about this, I can’t imagine how they’d feel about lingerie ads or the cover pictures on so many fashion/lifestyle magazines. They’re all a notch or two above this one.

    I personally feel that its all a cry-out for publicity on ‘Sexism Matters’ part. When I see this pic, all I see is a celebration of beautiful & fit female body (pretty apt for a gym ad), not something which is sexually degrading to women or pornographic in nature.


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