Got a problem with the Adidas bare boobs ad? Ask yourself why

The controversial sports bra ad is daring – in the very best sense of the word. It’s inclusive and diverse and celebrates how different our breasts can be

Harriet Williamson
Thursday 12 May 2022 05:26 BST
<p>Why we’re collectively so pearl-clutchingly offended by women’s bodies is worth examining </p>

Why we’re collectively so pearl-clutchingly offended by women’s bodies is worth examining

I hate my boobs. There, I said it. They came into this world too early, and the only time I found them manageable was when I was underweight. Now they’re unwieldy melons; unwanted bags of sugar to be wrestled and squashed into minimising bras. They hurt, they get in the way and I have no use for them. The amount of time I’ve wasted Googling reduction surgery doesn’t bear thinking about.

I’m particularly hateful of my breasts when I compare them unfavourably to the Instagram ad boobs I’m assailed by on the regular. You know the ones – perfectly round domes that stand to attention entirely by themselves. Mine just don’t have the right aesthetic, you know. Throw them in the trash.

In a world that prescribes a curated image of the “right” breasts, there’s a lot of boob dissatisfaction. There’s also a great deal of loathing towards our bodies in general.

What we actually need is more boob representation – the celebration of breasts and chests of all shapes and sizes. Sadly, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not appear to agree.

Two poster ads for Adidas sports bras have been banned in the UK by the ASA, showing the breasts of 20 people of various skin colours, shapes and sizes. A tweet from February featuring this “boob grid” (which has now seemingly been deleted) stated: “We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”

The Adidas Twitter post banned by the ASA. (ASA/PA)

The ASA received 24 complaints about gratuitous use of nudity and the objectification of women. Some who complained about the ad believed it sexualised women and “reduced them to body parts”.

I think they’re missing the point. Adidas’ sports bra ad is daring in the very best sense of the word. It’s inclusive and diverse and shows how different our breasts can be. I’m fed up with seeing sports bras modelled exclusively by thin, toned – usually white – women with small breasts. If I’m looking for a high impact, supportive sports bra, I want to know that the brand has people with boobs outside of the compact, high-set ideal in mind.

The Adidas ad feels joyful to me. It feels like a tiny step in the right direction. I don’t believe it sexualises women – the ad is honest, rather than styled or posed for the purpose of titillation. I’ve seen far raunchier posters on the side of buses for lingerie from high street retailers, even those aimed at older women. As for reducing women to body parts: granted the chest of each model is the only area displayed – but I don’t buy a sports bra to wear on my face.

The ASA said: “Although we did not consider that the way the women were portrayed was sexually explicit or objectified them, we considered that the depiction of naked breasts was likely to be seen as explicit nudity.

“As the ads contained explicit nudity, we considered that they required careful targeting to avoid causing offence to those who viewed them. ”

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Male chests are uncensored across media and advertising, nips and all, but the female nipple is still considered too shocking for Instagram. People (usually men, let’s be honest) still get weird about breastfeeding in public spaces. It’s almost as though they’ve missed the memo about what boobs are designed for. You there! Providing life-giving nutrition to a baby! Go and sit in a dank toilet cubicle and spare my delicate eyes!

Why we’re collectively so pearl-clutchingly offended by breasts is worth examining – and I haven’t space to do the question justice here. But the representation present in Adidas’ sports bra ad is important. It brings to mind Jamie McCartney’s 2008 artwork “The Great Wall of Vagina”, where the artist cast over 400 vulvas in plaster of Paris. It was arresting to see so many different shapes of genitalia when we are all too aware of the neat, pornified ideal of how vulvas “should” look and in 2017, labiaplasty was the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the world.

With more representation, surely we might experience less body hatred. All breasts are cool, no matter what shape or size, and they all deserve to be catered for with bras that are comfortable and well-fitting.

Adidas say they “stand proudly behind” the creative itself and its message, which is still exhibited on their website, and good for them. All hail the boob grid.

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