As we know, brands everywhere are scrambling to appear more diverse, frantically pandering to consumers with inspirational sayings taken out of the context of history, in the hopes of selling more whatever. So it’s not surprising to see Adidas get a jump start on Women’s History Month with an ad campaign that promises to support women…with their new line of sports bras, of course!
Promoted with the pithy hashtag #SupportIsEverything, the Adidas campaign states their bold belief that women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort, and drives the point home with a grid presentation of 25 bare-chested female torsos. The marketing strategy is getting roasted from both sides on Twitter, with predictable outrage from conservatives over the promulgation of dirty pillows, and from progressives who view the ad as a blatant co-optation of the body positivity movement.
As Twitter user @abigaail17 points out, using bare tits to sell sports bras is a little disingenuous: “Shouldn’t it at least show how their ‘body positive’ bras support all different kinds of boobies?” (Though a follow-up tweet does compliment the use of all-size models in the linked sales site). As many other users observed, Adidas probably would not show a grid of exposed penises to advertise their range of athletic supporters and groin guards (though some remain hopeful.)
The use of boobs to capture media attention is a tale as old as Girls Gone Wild. And yet, many brands use topless male models to advertise a variety of related and unrelated products, so there is an equity argument to be made here, as proponents of free nipple politics will gladly point out. After Micol Hebron was censored on Instagram for appearing topless in promotion of a show in Los Angeles benefiting cancer research in 2014, the artist started her male nipple sticker project. In a hilarious workaround of Instagram’s gender-biased guidelines, the project met guidelines by concealing images of female nipples with pasties of “acceptable male nipples.”
In 2019, Hebron was mentioned only as an afterthought when installation artist Spencer Tunick staged an action in partnership with the National Coalition Against Censorship outside of Facebook’s New York headquarters. The event featured naked people using images of males nipples to obscure their genitals and nipples, proving that not only are these body parts less offensive when they belong to men, apparently male ideas are more palatable, as well. Adidas’s latest ad was seen by some as another typical example of appropriating the hard-fought work of feminist activists.
Then, of course, there is the bottom of the Internet barrel, happy to jump on the bandwagon anytime a brand does something to garner clicks.
“As much as I dig women… I really hope no tampon company runs with a similar idea,” tweeted user Tim Young (no one tell him about the Free Bleed movement, he’ll really lose his mind.)
In fairness, Adidas appears to have generous maternity leave policy for US standards: in addition to regular parental leave for new parents (up to 10 weeks at home, 70% of their salary), the company offers an extra two weeks’ paid leave, according to their corporate culture statement. On top of that, mothers are allowed to work fewer hours one month before and after their maternity leave period. So it seems that there are at least a few benefits for tits-havers around Adidas corporate — or at least the ones who also have children.
And at the end of the day, this campaign is doing exactly what it intends: Getting a bunch of attention. With results like these, who wouldn’t just do it?
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