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SAFRA ad pilloried for objectifying women and encouraging sexual harassment in gyms

SAFRA adAn ad for a recreation club for the Singapore armed forces has come under attack in social media for encouraging sexually intimidating behaviour and objectifying women.

The ad for SAFRA, or the Singapore Armed Forces Reservist Association, features a woman being oggled at by two men while she is working out. The headline reads “A great workout, good friends and some healthy distractions”.

A customer wrote to SAFRA to complain that the ad, spotted at a bus shelter, was demeaning to women and a cheap trick to raise subscriptions.

The complaint from Cindy Ng, sent to SAFRA’s Facebook page, reads:

Is this the best marketing strategy you can use to increase your gym membership? This is outright distasteful, completely disrespectful to women and borders on condoning sexual harassment!

In its defence, SAFRA attempted to play down the connotations of the ad, calling its tone “tongue in cheek”. SAFRA responded to Ng with the following:

Hi Cindy Ng! We are glad that you saw our advert in the Thompson area. SAFRA has come up with a series of adverts 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. The ad is not aimed to devalue women and neither does SAFRA condone it. We certainly believe in equality of the both sexes. Thanks for sharing your feedback with us about this advert and we will be more mindful in future. We hope to see you at our clubs with your family soon. Have a great weekend!

SAFRA’s response was not well received, with a number of Facebookers pointing out that it confirmed their allegations.

But then the model in the ad, apparently going by the name of Fiona Teo, came to the advertiser’s defence, saying she was unaware what was wrong with it.

Fiona Teo's response

It subsequently emerged, in an article in the Singapore blog Mothership, that the model was only paid S$300 to be in the ad, which is being re-shot.

Mandate army packThe online fracas for SAFRA comes six months after the Singapore Army was criticised by an anti-sexism group for sending a promotional mail pack to women that contained make-up and a fake mirror.

“Be empowered by an Army career” the copy read on the mail pack, created by Mandate.

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