Equinox uses "Breastfeeding" Model to Shock in Advertisement
Posted on 07 January 2016
I have so many feelings about this Equinox gym ad. Their slogan, "Commit to Something," promotes healthy choices, and committing to breastfeeding is a healthy choice for mothers and babies. While I appreciate photos of breastfeeding to help normalize breastfeeding, I can't quite believe that this was Equinox's intent. Equinox has a long history of using shocking advertisements, some of which have featured orgies, and women posing in objectifying positions, one of which was so "offensive" to a community in Bethesda that they petitioned to have it removed (https://www.change.org/p/equinox-take-down-the-offensive-an…)
It seems to me that Equinox is taking a sensationalized topic and presenting it in a polarizing manner to get people talking about their gym. While some people think "any press is good press," I'm not sure every representation of breastfeeding is good for the Normalize Breastfeeding movement. When breastfeeding is presented in an advertisement that is meant to be bold and shocking, it presents breastfeeding as bold and shocking, when really it is normal and natural. When this ad is viewed within Equinox's advertising arsenal, it's extremely difficult to argue that this ad wasn't intended to be bold and shocking.
The "mother" in this picture is model Lydia Hearst, who is not actually a mother, and the "babies" are dolls. This is troublesome to me for a few reasons. Those "babies" are meant to look very young, and mothers who look at this ad without thinking about whether or not that woman is their mother subconsciously think that it is possible to look like this woman soon after birth if they join Equinox gym and work hard enough. This is not only false, but possibly dangerous for a mother's health and milk supply if she were to actually attempt to look like this model by dieting and exercising excessively so soon after birth.
Showing breastfeeding is obviously more effective than not showing breastfeeding when it comes to normalizing it. However, when Equinox is "showing breastfeeding," but it's not real, it is kind of sending the message that "This is taboo. We are edgy because this is a controversial topic, but not offensive because this isn't actually breastfeeding." They are using breastfeeding "controversy" to be shocking, but not actually aligning themselves completely with the normalize breastfeeding movement because it's not actually breastfeeding. There are plenty of gorgeous new moms and babies who meet those same fashion industry/gym corporation beauty ideals that they could have used in this ad, and Equinox could have shown them really breastfeeding. They didn't. It's better than nothing, but still not flawless.
Honestly, I can never get behind any ad campaign that intentionally makes a woman feel insecure to sell them a "fix," which is MOST advertising campaigns that are selling products to women. As a breastfeeding fashion line, though, I love how this breastfeeding "mom" is styled. I'd just prefer to see a real mom wearing this outfit while really breastfeeding her real children.