A new ad for lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has sparked controversy, with some suggesting it sexualises women in sport, while others say it empowers female athletes.
The ad campaign ‘Play to Win’ shows four female athletes wearing the brand’s lingerie as they compete in their respective disciplines to the song “Oh Yeah” by Swiss electronic group Yello.
Directed by female creative Sarah Shotton, the ad was released in line with IWD.
Shotton said: “We wanted to hero the magnificence of their sports and body confidence and how wearing Agent Provocateur can make you feel great.
“The athletes for SS20 continues AP’s story of the celebration of women and the female form.”
However, not everyone is impressed with the ad.
Olympic runner Sage Watson said it “breaks her heart” to see female athletes continue to be sexualised.
In an Instagram post she said: “As a female athlete, that’s not what makes our bodies amazing. It’s our arms, legs, abs, backs and our mental strength.”
Watson said she was sexually harassed for months after the 2016 Olympics because her “buns rode up after [her] hurdle race” and the cameraman “zoomed in for the world to see a close up of [her] butt.”
“People didn’t care that I made my first Olympic semifinal, they just cared that my butt was shown on international television.”
Watson said it was one of the “hardest things [she] ever went through.”
While in her Instagram post she said women have the right the show off their bodies no matter their size or figure, she added society needs to “get out of this idea that perfect breast and butts are what make women beautiful.”
“Women’s sports need to move away from the direction of what we look like and more towards what we are doing in the sport.
“I am not trying to take anything away from the amazing women who were in the campaign or the message of female strength that was trying to be shown, I am just sharing my experience and hopefully this will help women and young girls realize you are so much more than what your body looks like.”
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My heart broke ? when I watched a recent lingerie campaign video as it zoomed in on women’s butts and breasts as they did sporting activities. As a female athletes that’s not what makes our bodies amazing it’s our arms,legs,abs, backs and our mental strength. I was sexually harassed for months after the olympics because my buns rode up after my hurdle race and the camera man zoomed in for the world to see a close up of my butt…. people didn’t care that I made my first Olympic semifinal they just cared that my butt was shown on international television. Articles were written about how “sexy” I was and videos were posted showing my butt in slow motion as I walked off the track after giving it my all to make the olympic semifinals. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through receiving sexual and explicit messages about my body even though I loved my body it hurt to have it sexualized while I was competing. All because a camera man decided to zoom in on my behind instead of my face or my other competitors or the woman who actually won the race. I believe as women we have the right to show off our bodies NO MATTER what your size or figure looks like but we need to get out of this idea that perfect breast and butts are what make women beautiful. Womens sports need to move away from the direction of what we look like and more towards what we are doing in the sport. I am not trying to take anything away from the amazing women who were in the campaign or the message of female strength that was trying to be shown I am just sharing my experience and hopefully this will help women and young girls realize you are so much more than what your body looks like. ❤️ #selflove #empowereachother #femalestrength #bodyimage #positivity #love
Meanwhile, athlete Harrison Claye who features in the ad told the New York Times she felt empowered while shooting the ad.
“I was outside my comfort zone. I’ve never done hurdling in a bra like that, obviously. It was also really liberating.”
Alysha Newman, who also featured in the campaign said: “As a woman and an athlete, I have been breaking barriers my entire life and this campaign “Play To Win” allowed me to show another side of the beauty of being a woman.”
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If not now, then when?! If we don’t push limits, break barriers and expectations, it will do nothing but hold us back from our true selves!? As a woman and an athlete, I have been breaking barriers my entire life and this campaign “Play To Win” allowed me to show another side of the beauty of being a woman! Being apart of the #AgentProvocateur family, I can not express how honoured and thankful I am! This empowering campaign is out NOW, go check it out on @agentprovocateur. None of this would be possible without the wonderful @sarah_shotton_ and @charlottemwales!❤️We can’t forget the other queens who shared this incredible experience with me ! You three inspire me like no other! @goqueengo, @_gmfenton,and @sashadigiulian #WePlayToWin
Over at Forbes, journalist Lela London said the ad was “brilliant”.
“In the first move of its kind, the iconic lingerie brand has tapped British gold-medal gymnast Georgia-Mae Fenton, Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman, American gold-medal hurdler Queen Harrison-Claye, and American rock climber Sasha DiGiulian to star in its latest campaign.
“And god, is it brilliant.”
Conversely, Vanessa Friedman questioned in The New York Times if the ad was a “step forward of a great leap back.”
“It is impossible to view the images and not wonder if it is really women taking charge of their own sexuality that people will see or, rather, very strong women being reduced to their sexuality,” Friedman wrote.”
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