From ‘Seeing red over Safra’s healthy distractions’, 10 March 2014, article by Lee Wan Sim, My Paper
AN ADVERTISEMENT aimed at attracting people to sign up with the Safra National Service Association’s clubs has ended up riling some online. The ad shows two men working out at a gym ogling an attractive woman behind her back, with the tagline: “A great workout, good friends and some healthy distractions.“
Several netizens saw the ad as degrading to women. A woman named Cindy Ng posted a picture of the ad, which she said appeared at a bus stop in Upper Thomson Road, on the Safra Facebook page on Saturday.
She said this was “outright distasteful, completely disrespectful to women and borders on condoning sexual harassment”. Several other commenters – both men and women – agreed, with one user called Faith Toh claiming that “through this ad, Safra has endorsed the objectification of women”.
However, others disagreed, saying it was “harmless” and did not degrade women. In a Facebook comment, Safra said the ad was meant “to showcase some bonding moments among our NSmen while having a tongue-in-cheek approach to life experiences”.
“Be it in the gym or anywhere else, it is not uncommon for some women to be checked out by men or vice versa,” it said, adding that the ad was “not aimed to devalue women and neither does Safra condone it”.
AWARE, as expected, got into the thick of the ad controversy, saying that the poster encourages perverted leering and makes gyms dangerous for women. I’m not a fan of gym workouts, but I’d gather one reason why there are often mirrors there is not so you can sneak a glance at someone’s rack, but to ogle at your own bulging awesomeness like the narcissistic handsome devil that you are.
Ogling is universal for both sexes of course, but it’s only played to comedic effect in pop culture when men are the ones doing the eyeballing. Women complain about the sleazy attention to the point of calling it a precursor for gangrape, but few would realise that staring at a comely woman tends to depict men as the more IDIOTIC sex. Whether it’s having them fall into a manhole, walk face first in a pole or fall off a chair, the gag is always on the one nursing a ridiculous hard-on and drooling from the mouth. It happens in sex comedies and ads selling products from shampoo to low-fat yogurt. Why isn’t anyone complaining that the ad undermines our ability to think outside our genitals?
If anything, attractive women are usually the total opposite of HEALTHY distractions. They turn men into total morons, and no exception in a gym if in your attempt to impress the babe on the treadmill, you pump more iron than your body can take and end up with a torn triceps, injuring yourself before you can even think of doing any actual molesting of your own. Even if a woman does get any kind of unsavoury propositions from stinky men in a gym, there are plenty of defensive weapons at her disposal, like the little dumbbell the SAFRA model is carrying for example. The last thing we want to do is chat up a girl who’s all pumped up for her boxercise class, with a devastating 5 pounder in her grasp.
No one in the right mind would sign up for SAFRA just to check out the ‘healthy distractions’. You could do it tactically on the MRT, at work, the beach etc and it would be the perfectly normal thing to do since most men have control over their animal urges and have gotten away with daily ogling without turning into sex maniacs. When you take a staged snapshot and stamp a gym membership product on it on the other hand, it suddenly becomes a glaring endorsement of rape culture and sexploitation. AWARE sure knows how to flex a feminist muscle or too, what with the flag-waving and man-bashing and all. They may get an army song lyric banned, but I doubt their argument here holds much weight.