It’s only the third week of January and already we’ve seen two big raging conversations go down in the yoga world: the NYT article (which has come to affectionately be known as “NYT yoga wreck-gate”) and a certain viral Equinox ad. I’ve resisted commenting on the later because I find it disheartening. And repetitive.
I’m starting to think that the best policy is to let my silence speak louder than my words. And more importantly, to not drive any more clicks to the video, to not keep talking about it because this is what the brand wants (this is the intention behind the video: not to show a “powerful” or “empowered” or “beautiful” practice; it’s viral marketing, and its ROI – return on investment – is determined by how many people are talking about it, how many click-throughs they get).
The scenario goes something like this:
- brand creates attractive and stylish ad using partially-clothed (or totally naked), highly-skilled female practitioner in advanced yoga postures
- a flurry of blog posts ensue, followed by raging discussion which breaks down into several camps: art vs beauty vs commercialism vs objectification of women
- the argument dissolves into attacks on the partially-clothed (or totally naked), highly-skilled female practitioner, and defenses of her beauty and dedication to practice
- partially-clothed (or totally naked), highly-skilled female practitioner claims she feels “judged,” feels the need to justify her decision and explain her intention (preferably in vague new agey language) to pose nude for said advertisement
Marketers see increased click-throughs and improved brand recognition.
Laura at Bending over Backwards brilliantly summarizes the strategy: “The more people who discuss it, the more people there are to log on and view it and then weigh in on the subject, which is exactly how viral marketing works – the company’s advertising message is sent via social networks across the globe and the cost to Equinox was in the high quality production – which is much less than they would have had to pay to secure ad space for a 3+ minute ad on television.” That’s it.
And despite all the impassioned conversation and debate, nothing changes. The cycle continues.
Sexy advertising (whether for yoga or anything else) is easy. Even as a blogger, I see the temptation: a good 20% of my traffic comes from searches on variations of “naked yoga,” based on a few posts that I made two years ago. If I commented on this phenomenon on a weekly basis, I would probably get 300 times as much traffic as I do now (although less retention, because these searchers don’t want to read critical commentary – they just want photos).
But I didn’t blog about the Equinox video because it felt like an uphill battle. I definitely feel that it’s important to discuss the hypersexualization of yoga advertising, and how the body is commodified by brands. But the conversation in this context goes nowhere. It simply fuels the fire and leads to more sexy yoga advertising.
I also feel like I’ve already lived this conversation before, in the long ago days of summer 2010. That conversation was sparked by a greater call, however, when Judith Hanson Lasater had the courage to speak out against sexualized advertising of yoga products.
What makes me sad, however, is to see that nothing was learned from that conversation. The only people who learned anything were marketers: that sexy advertising gets people talking, gets people clicking.
“No one expected or hoped for controversy,” the model in the viral Equinox video told the Huffington Post. Right. She also claimed that the decision behind the lingerie was because “minimal clothing was the best way to show the lines of the body.” The gratuitous ass shots helped, too.
What I’d like to see – instead of whiny justifications and vague artistic “intentions” – is some actual transparency. I’d love for these models to just say, “Suck it, bitches. Y’all are fat and inflexible and you just wish you could float from crow to handstand like me.” Tell us how much you were paid for that video shoot. Toesox, tell us the ROI on your Jasper Johal photo series (the ads are still running, so they must be working).
More importantly, what I want to see is a silent and powerful resistance from the yoga community. What would happen if we all just stopped talking? Stopped clicking links? Stopped driving traffic? What would happen if we just tried to break the cycle?