A letter to Sweaty Betty about sexualisation of teenagers

sweaty betty inappropriate images

Earlier today, I was horrified when I saw these Tweets pop up on my timeline:

Needless to say, I was disgusted.

To be quite honest, I was left lost for words. I have now emailed Sweaty Betty the following email:

Dear Sweaty Betty

I want to start this email by stating that I am generally a fan of your brand. The clothing is well made and stylish and I generally love the positivity that oozes from your brand.

That said, I was disgusted today when I saw on Twitter the images from your current Mini-Me Edit for teen leggings. It is completely and utterly inappropriate to sexualise young girls in this manner in the name of selling sportswear.

Your “About Us” section says the following:

“On a mission to empower women through fitness and beyond, Sweaty Betty is on hand for the woman who works out hard and plays harder.”

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but sexualising teenage girls to sell leggings is not empowering women through fitness. It is bad enough that grown women think they have to be seen as “sexy” to take part in sport and fitness. It’s incredibly irresponsible for any brand, let alone one that claims to empower women, to present clothing to impressionable young girls in this way.

It is advertising campaigns like this that reinforce negative gender stereotypes and contribute to low self-worth and self-esteem. This type of campaign reinforces the thinking in young girls that women are there to be sexy and attractive, instead of equals.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to feel good in your clothing. However, you have missed the mark with this one in producing what is essentially a glamour magazine shot starring young girls.

I would be interested in hearing your reasoning for this campaign and if at any point nobody stopped to consider how inappropriate the images are. I would like to see these removed and replaced with more age appropriate images, as well as a published apology for getting this so badly wrong.

You may be interested to hear that in the UK, the age at which girls start dropping out of sport is just 8 year old. Reasons for this include insecurities about body image. This campaign contributes to that.

Sweaty Betty – on a mission to empower, or on a mission to sexualise our teenage daughters, nieces and sisters?

Helen Tamblyn

Is it my best written email? Far, far from it. I wish I could have put my points across in a more articulate manner. But you know that feeling when you are left so angry you are left lost for words? This is it.

And for those of you who say it doesn’t matter?

Then you are part of the problem.

I will let you know if I receive a response.


UPDATE 15/5/18: Seems this has now picked up traction on social media and the Independent have reported on the problem. I have had a Facebook response from SB directing me to their blog post on why they decided to introduce teen leggings. I’m not complaining about the range. I’m complaining about the lolita style imagery. Unfortunately, it seems they’ve missed the point and dismissed it as a bit of fun. I will update if I receive the further response I’ve asked for.

FURTHER UPDATE 15/5/18: The worst of the images has been very quietly removed from the website.

9 thoughts on “A letter to Sweaty Betty about sexualisation of teenagers

  1. Terrible idea for a campaign – but thinking about it, their usual campaigns are not terribly inclusive or celebratory of anything other than ’skinny’…..

  2. I totally agree with you, can’t believe this advert was allowed. More has to be done to stop these kind of adverts and to let our kids just be kids. They are being pressured into growing up to fast these days.

  3. I actually have to disagree with all these comments and was quite shocked to see others say this. I don’t think this is sexualising children in the slightest. I wish we had funky sportswear back in my day because sports actually might have been more appealing to me back in high school.

    I certainly don’t wear leggings and a crop top to “sexualise” myself… I wear it to keep cool and to work out comfortably. Which I’m sure about 90% of women who work out do too.

    I think the fact that people see this as “sexualising” is the problem.

    1. Hi Julie, thank you for commenting, I always welcome a difference of opinion!

      I don’t have a problem with the range itself. I actually like it. I actually think it’s practical and if it makes sport more appealing to girls, then that’s great – 100% agree with you there and it’s an excellent point. The clothes themselves are not sexual in my opinion. I know some think them too grown up – I don’t actually think so.

      What I have an issue with is the imagery and the sexualisation and glamour style of the photos. I think it would have been much more appropriate if they’d shown the girls doing something active. They had some lovely images on their FB page which would have been great to use. Instead, they opted for what they did and that’s what I have an issue with.

      1. Hi Helen :)

        Again even with the images they used I don’t find a problem with these. If you take the image where she’s sitting with her legs open and the others posing and replaced them all with boys I don’t think anyone would see a problem with it.

        Girls are taught to sit with their legs crossed and be “a lady”. Children sit like this all the time and no one would bat an eyelid. Even I would sit like that now haha!

        I do agree a more sporty style shoot would have been better for showing the clothes off though.

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