Gym Ad Uses Breastfeeding To Show 'Commitment' - With A Childless Model And Fake Babies

by Ashley Austrew

Luxury gym Equinox is courting controversy in new ad with a ‘breastfeeding’ model.

Equinox gym is trying to capitalize on all the people setting fitness goals in the new year, and they’re doing it in the most obnoxious way possible. The luxury fitness club recently launched a new campaign that features an ad with a childless model pretending to breastfeed twins in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

Image via Equinox

The ad is one of seven in the campaign — others depict a “cat lady” and a male cheerleader — and features model Lydia Hearst, who is not actually a mom, “breastfeeding” two frighteningly life-like fake babies. Hearst glares icily around her as she mimics feeding the babies, and stamped across the photo is the company’s latest slogan, “Commit to something.”

According to People, the ad was commissioned by the gym’s Chief Marketing Officer, Carlos Becil, and shot by photographer Steven Klein. It was intended to capture the “concept of commitment” by showing an unapologetic new mom breastfeeding in public. In a press release, Klein said of the ad:

“It is the responsibility of advertising to communicate modern times and social issues. This campaign addresses today’s issues and social commentaries, which is a powerful approach, instead of portraying people as superficial objects with no narrative.”

While public breastfeeding is a noble cause, I’d like to know how a photo of a childless model pretending to breastfeed fake babies is adding anything to the conversation. Not only has the ad managed to alienate moms who don’t breastfeed by implying they aren’t “committed” enough, but it’s also a complete misrepresentation of moms who actually do breastfeed. Who’s life breastfeeding small babies really looks like that? It’s a very glamorous and sexualized depiction of feeding, and if you can breastfeed in giant dangling earrings like that, you are braver than most.

Despite the bold message Klein was going for in this ad, the non-lactating super model with perky, non-breastfeeding breasts is the very definition of a “superficial object with no narrative.” The woman in this photo is stripped of any sort of reality of breastfeeding or motherhood, and instead comes off as a superficial attempt by men to co-opt women’s bodies and experiences to sell a product. Sorry if I’m not seeing what’s “powerful” about that, gentlemen.

In a world where women are legitimately mocked and harassed for trying feed their kids in public, it’d be nice if we could devote some real attention to the issue rather than dressing it up and parading it around to drum up controversy. If you want to normalize breastfeeding, then show the world what breastfeeding really looks like. If you want to make a bold statement about “unapologetic moms” then show someone who’s actually a fucking unapologetic mom. Do not create ads that clearly exploit our experiences and our struggles in order to sell gym memberships and then act like we should be inspired by it.