SINGAPORE - The female model who appears in Safra's controversial advertisement said she does not find it sexist, even as women's rights group Aware condemned the ad.
Ms Fiona Teo, 26, told MyPaper yesterday that "it's very normal to look at people in the gym", and added that she thought the ad showed a "sense of humour".
The controversy brewed online over the weekend, after a woman posted a picture of the ad on Safra's Facebook page on Friday, complaining that it was disrespectful to women.
It shows two men working out at a gym ogling an attractive woman - Ms Teo - behind her back. This was slammed by some netizens as degrading to women.
Ms Teo, who works at an estate-management agency and has modelled part-time for eight years, said: "I honestly feel that if this ad wasn't run by Safra, there wouldn't be any issue.
"If it was from any other gym or company, nobody would bother."
She has made her views known online as well. On Sunday, she posted a response on her own Facebook page saying: "I seriously don't care what people think... Every man looks at women and women look at men, too... Eyes are made to see!" She later took this comment down yesterday.
The shoot, done in November last year, took two to three hours to complete. Ms Teo declined to say how much she was paid.
Prior to the shoot, she was told that it would be held in a gym, but she learnt of the scenario only on the day itself. Ms Teo was comfortable during the whole process, saying that she "enjoyed the shoot".
Meanwhile, Aware posted an open letter on its website yesterday, saying that Safra's ad "contributes" to "a culture that ubiquitously encourages everyone to see women as existing to be 'checked out'...for the pleasure of heterosexual men, regardless of how we feel about it".
The ad "tells women that Safra gyms are not safe places for us to exercise", said Aware.
The group added: "Men can appreciate the benefits of exercise and enjoy hanging out with their friends even without women...dangled before them as sexual prospects."
A Safra spokesman said the ad depicts two NSmen "stealing an admiring glance at a lady" in the gym, and that it is part of a series that shows "other humorous moments" such as NSmen re-enacting a water parade while having drinks, and a playful fight between a father and his children.
The ad campaign takes "a humorous and light-hearted approach to some of life's experiences as boys become men", and is aimed at encouraging bonding among NSmen. It will run till the end of this month.
Safra also quelled online rumours that it is reshooting the gym ad, saying it does not plan to do so.
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