13/10/2017 16:43 BST | Updated 13/10/2017 16:50 BST

Heist Tights Advert Featuring Topless Woman Censored On London Tube

Reminder: Women are not just sexual objects.

An advert for Heist Tights was banned from being displayed on the London Tube because it featured a topless dancer. 

A censored version of the ad with a bandeau top Photoshopped onto the models’ back, is currently plastered across the Underground.

Ellie Howard, head of community at Heist, told HuffPost UK the fashion brand was told to make the modification to the image because TFL’s media partner deemed the shot to be “overtly sexual”.

“We’re feeling pretty indignant about this,” she said.

Heist Studios

A TFL spokesperson explained that its media partner Exterion was responsible for the request to add a black strap to the model’s back.

“We were not sent the advert which is being referred to,” they said.

“Every advertisement is reviewed by our agents [Exterion] against our advertising policy to make sure it is compliant.

“In cases where an advertisement is deemed not to be compliant, we work with the advertiser to amend it.”

TfL’s advertising policy was updated in January 2016, when London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, promised stricter guidelines relating to adverts which promoted problematic body image ideals.

This followed outrage over a Protein World advert in 2015, which featured a bikini-clad model and the slogan: “Are you beach body ready?”

However, Howard argues that the Heist advert should not have fallen foul of these guidelines because it is not sexualised.

“We use dancing and movement in our imagery precisely because we are trying to challenge the way that women are sexualised in underwear adverts, yet it seems that the back of a female dancer is unacceptable,” she said.

“This is a huge shame and something that we think urgently needs to change”. 


Heist Studios

Howard added that she felt censoring the image, conveyed a message about how women’s bodies are viewed as sexual objects in society.

“For a brand that’s passionate about progressing the conversation about female bodies, censorship is an issue,” she said.

“Are images of topless male models banned? No. Are images in women in seductive poses and clothes screened out? Oftentimes not. 

“How can we provide an alternative view of women’s bodies and women in underwear if we’re effectively banned from showing it?

“We’re just not used to seeing agency in female photography - so many images are shot in a static way, but for us, it’s all about movement and progress, as opposed to aesthetics alone.

“This, it seems, is ‘offensive’. Perhaps that’s because depicting women in this way isn’t commonplace.”

The edited version of the advert will still be shown on the Tube until the 22 October 2017 and again between the 4 December 2017 and 17 December 2017.

But don’t think that the drawn on bandeau is a sign that Heist will be changing its messaging around the female body.

“We think that we certainly need to challenge the status quo when it comes to how women are depicted in advertising,” said Howard.

“We were super excited to share our positive image of a strong dancer, leaping through the air in our tights, and we chose to shoot our product in this way precisely because we want to present women’s bodies in an empowering way.

“We will continue to push boundaries - watch this space”.