Transphobic Ad Campaign For Women’s Fitness Studio

An offensive campaign towards the transgender community recently launched by the advertising agency Yehoshua\TBWA for Studio C, a women’s fitness chain, has created a stir on the web, with thousands of criticizing comments.

Studio C ad: Orna Datz and a friend going to Latin dance class

On March 2, Israeli women’s fitness chain Studio C published its most offensive ad in the series. In the ad, famous Israeli TV host Orna Datz arrives at the studio with a friend who identifies as a woman. The receptionist approaches and allows only Orna to come in, while referring to the trans woman in masculine pronouns, despite the fact that the trans woman corrects her over and over.

Despite the mild apology that Studio C issued on its Official Facebook page, it seems that the transphobia in the place is deeply rooted. “Transgender women can register for classes in Studio C only if they are women, physiologically or biologically,” said the company’s spokeswoman to LGBT website WDG.

Advertising agency Yehoshua/TBWA is part of worldwide agency TBWA, that is working with giant brands like Adidas, Haggies and McDonalds. In the U.S. the agency is behind the multi-year support of Absolut Vodka in the LGBT community. Only in Israel, it seems, does the ad agency choose to make a joke of minorities. A short while ago, part of an ad series that joked about Russian immigrants to Israel was removed after the indignant response. Now they’ve chosen to go after the transgender community.

The Aguda, the LGBT National Task Force in Israel, has responded harshly. “We are used to being told that ‘it’s only humor.’ Well, humor is no excuse for hurting minority groups. Not only do the ads make fun of a hurtful situation that transgender women go through on a daily basis, they also cause transphobic comments, about which you can’t say that they were said ‘in humor,'” wrote the Aguda on its Facebook page. “Studio C has created an offensive and negative discourse toward transgender women, and we expect them to take responsibility and remove the ads.”

The ads creators explained that the ad centers around a man dresses up as a woman in order to get into the classes in various humorist situations, but the Aguda is not satisfied with the explanation.  “There’s nothing wrong with man dresses up as a woman- even for humor,” the Aguda replied, “but the ads deal with the question of ‘who is a woman’ and suggest that only someone who ‘passes’ as a woman in her looks or voice is indeed one. It is unreasonable that an ad will feature a ‘feminine test’ at a women’s gym’s reception.”

Yesterday, the Aguda continued its work against the transphobia of Studio C’s campaign, and purchased a Google Ad about “Studio C” which promotes the words “saying no to transphobia – support our community.” These words, with a link to the Task Force page and a list of businesses that support the community, comes up with every search of “Studio C” in Israel.

Despite everything, according to Haaretz, it seems that neither Studio C nor TBWA is moved by the negative comments. The video went viral with over 400,000 views. “If there’s a place where women go to avoid the touch or sight of men- they should decide who is woman enough or not women enough to bother them,” wrote Hezkush Yeshurun, the copywriter of the offensive ads, on Facebook. Despite emphasizing that he’s writing on behalf of himself and not on behalf of Studio C, he wrote that “there’s no point in allowing people who feel they are women, or even who make hormonal changes to become women, into these classes [at Studio C] if their bodies are not compatible with these classes.”