Ad Critique: Equinox Fitness’ Surveying and Surveyed Women

In this advertisement, shot by fashion photographer Terry Richardson for Equinox Fitness, a woman is being “filmed” by a man as she spreads her legs and gives a “come hither” look to the viewer. Thus, the woman fulfills her role as both the “surveyor and the surveyed,” for she must “survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance…” (Berger 37). That is, it is not the woman herself who is the central feature of this ad, but rather what the woman represents to the male viewer. She makes direct eye contact with what bell hooks calls the male “gaze” (115) to affirm that her target audience approves of how she is presenting herself. Additionally, the woman in the advertisement is blatantly made a “sexually viable commodity” (Cornell 3), as the brand relies on the fact that female hyper-sexuality will always sell. The advertisement also subtly implants the viewer with the belief that fitness and general maintenance of one’s body lead to “self-containment, self-mastery, [and] control” (Bordo 209)—and in turn, a body like this woman’s that in reality is an “impossible standard” to achieve (Nagy Hesse-Biber 63).  In this way, the advertisement is a definitive representation of the way in which women are portrayed in the media.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-9. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

hooks, bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

Introduction. Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2000. 1-15. Print.

Nagy Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.”The Cult of Thinness. Second ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 61-90. Print.

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