New Equinox Ads Promote Unhealthy Thinness And Degradation Of Women, Not Fitness

Equinox, the upscale gym with locations in New York, Dallas, Chicago and other locations throughout the east and west coast, is causing quite an uproar over its new print ads. The campaign entitled, “It’s Not Fitness, It’s Life” certainly promotes anything but fitness. Instead, it equates “life” to unrealistic thin runway models and the degradation and sexualization of women.

For a business focused on health and fitness, it’s hard to believe that they could intentionally release ads that depict only Victoria Secrets-looking models who are splayed out in some rather compromising, sexual positions. Not to mention the fact that they look like they spend more time on crash diets than in the gym. The guys, on the other hand, are photographed with their muscles and six-pack abs on display. Making the stereotypical point, once again, that women should be frail, thin and dainty, while men should be strong and muscular.

Like, is this what a woman in the weight room is supposed to look like?

Or a woman in spin class?

Or a woman in yoga?

And based on some of the comments on their Facebook page, others agree:

Jennifer Marie Schutten wrote:

Why did all of the models have a runway physique? Equinox is promoting health and fitness, so I would like to see some healthy and fit women on their ad campaigns who look like they could actually survive a typical Equinox class.. Can we maybe see a little bit if muscle on the ladies next time around? The Nike ads are great examples of strong, fit women!

Alisa Freundlich commented:

I saw the new campaign photos being installed this morning over the West LA entrance and was quite offended. They are an insult to your members who actually show up and work out. What is the point of two anorexic women arm wrestling over a cake? Is that supposed to be inspiring? Please rethink your messaging and give us something which motivates without degrading women (and men).

And Joey Swidler added:

these ads are stupid. strong, healthy women do not look like this.

We agree with all of these points. And while some people are pointing the finger at photographer, Terry Richardson, it’s really not his fault. After all, he’s just taking the money and doing what he’s told. Equinox is responsible for the ads and the image they put out there.

To which we say: Come on guys, you know better than this.

Take our poll and tell us what you think.



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    • Gayle Maccia

      I personally think the Ad’s are brilliant and not degrading to women at all. The photographs show modern, sexy, and provocative scenes that depict life’s captured moments. I believe they have a Tom Ford appeal, which is innovative for a gym…and lets face it, what woman wants to look like a body builder? with have broad shoulders? Those who are objecting are those who will never find their center if they take everything so literally. Would you prefer seeing women pumped up and thick? They are not suggesting that this is the only standard for beauty, but lets face it being skinny is sexy in clothes and out…period.

      • Mara

        Hey, are you blind? Or have you internalized mysogynism to a truly sad extent? “what woman wants to look like a body builder? with have broad shoulders?” errr….I do. And there are lots of female bodybuilders. Also, other women athletes who are muscular and strong (eg: Serena Williams). Not all women want to be anorexically skinny (even the anorexic ones don’t want that) and conform to an ideal perpetuated by a bunch of greedy white men. There are women with enough guts (something you clearly lack) to fight back degradation, dehumanization and objectification of women in mass media. And you are clearly an example of why they should be pushing harder.

      • Deborah Dunham

        “Pumped up” women are awesome! I, for one, love having a strong, muscular body. I think healthy women come in all shapes and sizes, and gyms should recognize that.

      • Cat

        “What woman wants to look like a body builder” – you mean a male body builder, I presume. Women who enjoy working out and doing weights and yes, women body builders, aren’t afraid of having muscles. And if it came to the choice I’d much rather look like that than an anorexic-looking model, let alone one who poses in some sort of sleazy, quasi-pornographic, sex-object poses. You seem to have a very narrow view of what is ‘sexy’. None of these models look remotely sexy to me, and I don’t think ‘thin’ and ‘sexy’ are synonyms. So yes, I would rather see women who look like they actually work out rather than starve themselves. Like Mara said, your post sounds like you’ve internalised misogyny.

      • Maria

        I call troll.

    • bweset

      Great post. It contains valuable information. Appreciate your sharing..

    • KD

      Ever been to Equinox Soho? That’s EXACTLY what the female members look like.

    • Jess Womack

      I can appreciate that women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and all are beautiful. Perhaps the ads wouldn’t be quite so offending if there was a mix of thin, wispy models and more muscular Nike ad types. All I can say for sure is that I don’t look like the women depicted in these ads and no gym on Earth could make me look like that. My body is not built to be that thin. Therefore there’s no way I would join a gym that only beautifies women who look like these models. It sort of defeats the purpose of advertising if you alienate a large (no pun intended) portion of the consumer base, isn’t it?

    • Maria

      It would have been nice for Dunham to include a little context for this add. Where were those published? I’m going to wager, not in Woman’s World.

      I find it hard to believe these are not exclusively targeted at men, because the implied message isn’t so much that women who work out at the advertised gyms will end up model like, but that the Equinox gyms are a good place to meet models bending over backwards (joke on the first picture only halfway intended) to be even more model like.

      The first one are a bit more ambiguous, or maybe less successful, because the model’s pose and body just don’t suggest the flexibility that is supposed to be the goal. I suppose the man trying to get a stronger zoom on her almost naked boobies is supposed to suggest the heightened attractiveness of said pose, but it kind of fails.

      Same about the second picture that is supposed to suggest a focus on strength will make tempting pastries disappear, but again fails because the models’ arms look like wet noodles. It’s a bit heartless to pick women who professionally starve themselves as the image of how working out at Equinox will change your way to see food.

      The last two pictures are just classic case of sexist advertising where obviously the model-like desirable object is the prize of the man who works out at Equinox.