There was nothing offensive or gratuitous about an Adidas ad featuring a collage of naked women’s breasts, according to a UCD professor of gender studies.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned the ads which were posted on Twitter and appeared on two large-scale posters.
The Tweet featured the bare breasts of 20 women in a grid format with the title ““We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort”.
It notes that the brands sports bras come in 43 styles so that “everyone can find the right fit for them”.
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.
— adidas (@adidas) February 9, 2022
The posters featured similar images, although on one of them, their nipples were pixelated.
The ASA found that while the ads did not objectify the women involved, they still featured explicit nudity and were likely to cause widespread offence.
It banned the ads and issued Adidas with a warning.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Mary McAuliffe, Director of the Gender Studies Programme at UCD, said she found the ruling strange.
“Actually, having had a look at the ads I thought they were quite good,” she said.
“I didn’t see any problem with them; I didn’t see any sexualisation of women’s breasts there. Just simply showing the diversity of size and shape of women’s breasts and the need for bras to cover all the different shapes and sizes that are there.
“The fact that children would see this, I don’t see that as a problem. I mean, are children under the impression that women don’t have breasts?
“So, I find the reasoning behind the ban by the advertising authority quite strange.”
She said she can’t understand how the ads are offensive – noting that other ads promoting an idealised idea of women’s bodies are much more offensive.
“Women’s bodies have been used to sell everything down through the decades – practically nude or naked women in advertisements.
“Oftentimes I would find myself offended by that but in this particular ad, I actually didn’t see it as offensive or gratuitous. It was stating a bold fact that women have different sized breasts.
“The whole point of the ad was that women have all these shapes and sizes and the sports bras are made to include that.
“I find it extraordinary that I am actually defending the use of women’s bodies for advertising but here I found it quite instructive and indeed, educational.”
In its ruling, the ASA said it did not believe the ads were sexually explicit or objectified the women involved.
However, it said the naked breasts were likely to be seen as “explicit nudity” and as a result needed “careful targeting to avoid causing offence to those who viewed them”.
It also noted that because the Adidas Twitter feed does not normally feature naked breasts it was “likely to cause widespread offence in that media”.
It said the posters were likely to be seen by people of all ages, including children and were also likely to cause widespread offence.