Equinox: Take down the offensive and sexist billboard at your Bethesda gym
  • Petitioned Harvey Spevak / Equinox Gym Bethesda

This petition was delivered to:

CEO, Equinox Fitness
Harvey Spevak / Equinox Gym Bethesda

Equinox: Take down the offensive and sexist billboard at your Bethesda gym

    1. Petition by

      Sexism Matters

October 2013


From Petition Creator: Through the support of thousands of thoughtful individuals who spoke out, Equinox has decided to change their advertising campaign, and move toward a more "fitness focused" media approach. We applaud Equinox for hearing our voices and deciding that women deserve more than to be pigeon-holed. We work out for our physical health, mental health, and sometimes to be "sexy", but that's up to each and every one of us.

Our daughters and sons walk by the billboard outside Equinox Gym every day. They see a woman in a degrading sexual position, being "celebrated" for her hypersexualized and supposed dexterity, with a pool cue and balls. This is somehow meant to advertise for a fitness facility.

Our children shouldn't be subjected to this. Our female friends and family shouldn't be viewed like this, nor forced to conform to it. Our male partners and colleagues shouldn't be boxed in to thinking this is normal. This is the kind of not-so-subtle sexism that infects our culture, and degrades an entire gender.

We work out to stay healthy. We go to the gym to become stronger. We celebrate our bodies' abilities on the track, in the pool, and on the court. We do NOT accept the excuses. We will NOT tolerate this billboard. And, we will NOT be joining your gym. We are all too busy working, running, teaching, living, and laughing to be seen as objects.

Please help us spread the word, and email, text, tweet, update and shout from the rooftops the link to this petition: http://chn.ge/17IGVsF

Harvey Spevak / Equinox Gym Bethesda, CEO, Equinox Fitness
Take down the offensive and sexist billboard outside the Bethesda gym. Our community isn't interested in this version of "fitness". Or, do women (and men) everywhere a favor, and remove those images everywhere - your gyms, your website, and your other advertising.

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. Bye Bye Billboard !!!

      Friends - The billboard has come down! Whether or not the gym took it down "as scheduled" or our little-petition-that-could made a difference - it's a win for the Bethesda community. A great thanks to all those that have signed, written, called, quit, and stood up against sexism. It may be a small victory, but we can't sit by and expect change to happen all by itself. Victory is sweet, but there is much more to do. The goal now will be to make sure that Equinox doesn't put up a new billboard that is equally offensive or worse. We'll be keeping an eye on Equinox, among other habitual offenders, and if you'd like to stay informed follow/like us on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Wordpress.

      Thanks again, and Congratulations!!

    2. Reached 1,000 signatures
    3. Final Push!

      We are so close to meeting our goal of 1000 signatures! Thanks to everyone who has already signed up!!! If you haven't already, please help us spread the word and tweet, post, update, and email away!

      We have heard that Equinox will be taking the down the "Dexterity" billboard in Bethesda sometime in mid-July, but we also know that they have a myriad of other offensive and sexist ads in their line up. With your support, we are confident that Equinox will think twice about what advertising choices they make in the Bethesda community, and other conscientious communities around the country. Onward!

    4. Reached 750 signatures
    5. Over 500 Supporters!!

      Thanks to everyone who has signed on to this great cause. Through your support we are sending a message and starting a conversation. Sure, there are those who reject the premise that this ad is sexist, or even worth fighting against - but those are the people who benefit most from hearing this outcry. If we don't fight sexism at the smallest, most insidious levels, than we won't be able to fight it on larger scales. This is important. Every voice is important. We are making a difference. Please continue the dialogue with friends, family, and those that may disagree. We are asking for kindness, for conversation, and for objective and rational thinking. Spread the word and keep the dialogue going. This is only the beginning.

      ~Sexism Matters

    6. Reached 500 signatures
    7. Momentum is building!

      Friends we are moving forward. Today we reached a huge landmark of 200 supporters on the petition, and our story was picked up by several major news outlets!

      Check out the stories below, and don't forget to encourage your friends and family to join the cause. Sexism Matters is now on Facebook and Twitter! Check us out and follow along! We're just getting started, and Equinox (among others) better watch out!


      Bethesda Now:

      Suggestive billboard upsetting some in Bethesda

      WASHINGTON - The billboard probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow in Hollywood, but the image of a curvaceous woman in a tight-fitting dress is drawing stares at Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street in downtown Bethesda. "I would rather not see it there," says Deborah Vollmer, a semi-retired attorney who lives in Chevy Chase.

    8. Reached 100 signatures
    9. On track to make a change!

      Thanks to everyone who has added their name to the rolls already! We are off to a great start in making our voices heard. With your help we will stand up to Equinox and forcefully say: "We will NOT stand for this type of blatant sexism in our community."

      Please help us spread the word, and email, text, tweet, update and shout from the rooftops the link to this petition: http://chn.ge/17IGVsF

      We are just getting started.

      ~Sexism Matters

      P.S - If you're interested in finding out more about Sexism Matters, feel free to stop by our website, SexismMatters.com, or follow us on Twitter @SexismMatters

    10. Reached 25 signatures
    11. Huffington Post:

      PHOTOS: What Are These Skinny Models Advertising?

      Do you go to the gym to get healthy and strong -- or skinny and sexy? Luxury fitness chain Equinox has placed its bets with the latter, producing a slick ad campaign for its gyms shot by Terry Richardson.


    Reasons for signing

    • N Bell BETHESDA, MD
      • 12 months ago

      I'm a woman! This is degrading and so unnecessary! Norma Bell

    • Anita Kanitz STUTTGART, GERMANY
      • about 1 year ago

      Women hating and sexism is normal in the media, but we should not tolerate this. For schools is this sexism a big shame! That has to stop. This writes a female young journalist on Twitter:Who Hate Women was the original language name of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. When the book was to be published in English the name was changed. Which is why I have a "Dumb Cunt" folder on my computer. It's jarring to see it there next to "Kids Stuff" and "Work Docs." But, this is where I file away copies of misogynistic messages and threats that I get via email, Facebook, Twitter and comments. I don't respond to these, but it's important to document them. I could have named it "Abuse File" or "Harassment," but I didn't because those words dilute their nature and intent. Like changing the name of the book. For some of us, words have meaning and there are men who hate women because they are women. What they say and do shouldn't be made politely palatable so that people aren't offended. They're offensive. Making them or their words "family friendly" is a systematized tolerance than enables them to act the way they do.

      People who send these emails, comments, posts and tweets, mostly men but sometimes women, are misogynists and they want women to stop talking and do as they are told, as in "Die, bitch." Their language goes beyond "typical" feedback writers may get from mean-spirited, morbidly housebound, anonymous commenters. It's hateful and graphically violent. Saying "Then came the rape threats," is like a rite of passage. Jennifer Pozner, director of Women in Media & News, who has been the target of similar abuse, got a message at her door from a man saying he'd find her and her mother and "rape you both."

      The intent is to silence women online. Unfortunately, sometimes, in Schrodinger's Rapist fashion, it gets real results off-line. I don't know many women engaged publically, certainly not those advocating for gender equity, who have not been harassed or threatened, many to the point of feeling physically endangered. While much of the communications is ugly and innocuous, some of it isn't.

      The first time I received an online threat it was in response to an article in which I suggested the benefits of allowing boys to cross-gender empathize the way girls do. A man suggested that I should and would hang high. Since then I, like millions of other women, regularly am called any number of gender-based, usually sexually inflected insults, for expressing my opinions. And, like others, I get threats that include being stalked and raped. Most recently, one man explained -- with this actual photography and name in Facebook, "if you guys ever gain ground, we will take that ground back with guns. I will make sure there are roving squads in every community going from house to house looking for feminists to kill."

      Public space has traditionally been an entirely male sphere. It's only recently that this has begun to change. But, like street harassment and the threat of violence that give it its suppressive power, namely rape and physical assault, this kind of online abuse is largely tolerated. Having an opinion, as Laurie Penny put it, is the "short skirt of the Internet." And, like harassment, women are supposed to quietly adapt. "Grow a thick skin!" "Just ignore it!" "Don't read comments!" We're suppose to pretend that these digital incivilities are gender-neutral and unrelated to other behaviors meant to keep women silent. They are not. A 2006 study found that chat room participants with obviously female names were 25 times as likely to be the targets of sexually explicit, threatening and malicious messages. In reality though, this gendered online safety gap mirrors the real world one.

      In lat 2011, Sady Doyle, a feminist writer, started a Twitter hashtag, #MenCallMeThings, to document threats and harassment. In a roundup of responses she documented women's experiences and identified several themes, all of which resonate personally. Welcome to the life of a woman writer. She didn't mention "Die," explicitly as theme, but I'll add it based on what other women and I have discussed. When you are the target of these messages, you have to keep a sense of humour. But there really is nothing funny about them, other than the really egregious spelling and grammar that's often used to make threats and hurl obscenities.

      While I understand "don't feed the trolls" and "don't read the comments" advice, I think that it crucially important that women who are experiencing this online harassment make people aware of it. So does Caroline Criado Perez, who today wrote about a new hashtag, #silentnomore, which she started to encourage women to speak out about their experiences and confront pervasive troll culture. Studies show that confronting sexism works.

      The immediate catalyst for her action was the cruel and sexualized assault, which was, as Criado Perez succinctly put it, "intended to degrade her and reduce her to nothing but a vagina," of academic Mary Beard. If you are unfamiliar with her work, Beard is a 58-year-old professor known for "bringing the classics" to the public. Here she is explaining last week what has been happening to her in the wake of a recent BBC "Question Time."

      Beard's experience isn't unique and many others have spoken out or written repeatedly about this topic. Helen Lewis' "You Should Have Your Tongue Ripped Out" includes several women speaking out and in November of 2012, Cath Elliot compiled a good list of articles and examples. Since then she would have to had, in addition to the notable case of Mary Beard, a massive cyber attack on pop culture feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian. Her online "harassment" included tens of thousands playing a game, Beat the Bitch Up, that resulted in photos of her bruised and bloodied face. Here she is explaining the experience :The comments on this video had to be shut down. She doesn't actually describe here the full extent of what happened.

      I often have to write the words "to be clear" when I explain that men are harassing and violently threatening women and that this violence is systemic, as in "to be clear, I'm not saying all men harass and violently threaten, just that most people who do are men." In this case, I will add another, however. And that is this: To be clear, as Martha Nussbaum explained in her book Sex and Social Justice, complaint, in other words, explaining what is going on, is "better than silent intimidation, and the right to complain does not turn women into pathetic victims -- any more than the right to complain when someone steals a wallet turns men into pathetic victims."

      Women are not going backwards. That's why actions like Doyle's and Criado Perez' are meaningful and why organization like Take Back the Tech, whose mission is making technology environments safe and stopping violence against women, should be supported. It's also why ad hoc online campaigns designed to confront sexism, like Everyday Sexism's #ShoutingBack and Miss Representation's upcoming #NotBuyingIt Superbowl campaign are equally important -- the change the tenor of what's acceptable and alter norms.

      Take Back the Tech's "CyberStalking and How to Prevent It" is a tremendous resource. Especially for teenage girls whose "real" lives are virtually seamlessly integrated with their virtual ones. Take Back the Tech also runs a mapping project that documents harassment, stalking, threats and abuse. If you have concerns about your privacy and security, check out TOR. Another excellent resource is GenderIT.org

      But, it will take more than any action that individual women take to change this manifestation of misogyny in our culture. Just as with harassment rape, bystanders -- those who would never indulge in this behavior -- have to get involved in confronting those that do. We need to shift the onus from the targets of abuse to the abusers. Right now it is often the case that women are isolated and their assailants deriving power from community and institutional tolerance. What this means is that, in men need to get involved. Like John Scazi who in 2011 wrote a great piece, "The Sort of Crap I Don't Get" and Ben Atherton-Zeman who two weeks ago wrote an excellent piece in Ms. Magazine's online blog, "How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It." Please read it.

      There is too much to be said than can be said here about freedom of expression, censorship, hate speech, legal remedies and the Internet. But, there is enough space to say this: this isn't about censoring people, it's about changing norms for what is acceptable. This speech online, whether in random blog comments, on Twitter or on Facebook, is no different than the same speech taking place in homes, street corners, schools, cable television, locker rooms every day. Online harassment is just a technology-enabled take on long-held ideas that women are public property, to be commented on and criticized, publicly shamed and held up for abuse as an example. Confronting it in this space has to happen as we confront it in all the others.

      Is it really too much to ask that we live in a civil society, one that includes women?

      • about 1 year ago

      disgusted by sexism!!!

    • Amy Holder SILVER SPRING, MD
      • about 1 year ago

      Really? Equinox Gym has the balls to publish an image like that for everyone to see?

    • Alan Graeff BETHESDA, MD
      • about 1 year ago

      It's sexist and debasing to both woman and pool. Equinox=Go Daddy=Sleezy


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