Online fashion retailer censored by adverts watchdog for sexually objectifying women

Manchester-based online fashion retailer Prettylittlething.com has been censored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for an advert that allegedly sexually objectifies women.

The ad featured a product listing for a pair of jeans, seen on www.prettylittlething.com in April 2022, which had an image of a woman wearing the jeans, with the unzipped front showing the top of the underwear from the woman. The woman was wearing nothing over her top and her hands were crossed over her chest to cover her breasts.

A second photo on the listing showed an image of the same woman wearing the zipped jeans, but the photo cut her head and shoulders off. She was wearing nothing over her top and her right hand was placed on her chest to cover her breasts.

The ASA received a complaint, claiming the ad was a sex object for women, and challenged whether it was offensive and irresponsible.

In response, Prettylittlething said she strives to use inclusive, body-positive imagery and communication. He said he takes body positivity and free speech very seriously and aims to empower his clients to increase their self-esteem.

He explained that advertisements for women’s jeans have historically included images of models with nothing on their tops and have been widely accepted as tasteful and harmless.

The company, run by Umar Kamani, said its designs and the way it spins its clothes embraces the diversity of women in society and its customer base, while supporting empowerment and freedom of expression. Therefore, he considered the images in the product listing to be in line with this approach and, in doing so, with the prevailing standards, rather than objectifying the women.

He said that while he did not believe the image objectivized women, he appreciated the importance of the issue raised and therefore agreed to remove the images from the website.

The ASA upheld the complaint, while acknowledging that Prettylittlething had agreed to remove the footage.

He said: “We noted that the first image showed the model topless and her arms crossed to cover her breasts. We considered the model to be portrayed as confident and in a neutral pose. However, she was completely shirtless, which was irrelevant to the advertised product and caused viewers to focus on the woman’s breasts.

“We considered that the ad was likely to have the effect of objectifying the woman by using her physical features to draw attention to the jeans in a way that was not relevant to the product.

“We noted that in the second image, the woman was also shown topless and one arm covering her partially exposed breasts. Again, because she was topless, it drew the viewer’s attention to her bare chest. , which was not necessary in a commercial for jeans.

“On top of that, the picture of the woman was cropped just below her shoulders, showing her exposed top, but not her face. The headless image, in conjunction with her bare torso, took away the individuality of the woman and objectified her. For these reasons, we concluded that the images objectified the woman. They were therefore irresponsible and capable of causing serious offenses.

The watchdog added: “We have told Prettylittlething.com Ltd to ensure that future advertisements are prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and do not cause serious or widespread offense. by objectifying women.”

Prettylittlething faced similar charges in February 2020, over another ad in which the ASA said “the products were presented in an overly sexualized way that invited viewers to view women as objects. sex”.

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