A girl is pictured in a classroom wearing a cropped short sleeved shirt, a tartan mini-skirt, and long white socks. She looks somewhat reminiscent of Britney Spears in the pop-stars ‘Baby one more time’ music video, only like Britney, this girl is no student, she’s a model posing in an ad for ‘back to school’ fares from budget airline, Ryanair.

The ad, seen by approximately three and a half million people, appeared in three national newspapers in the UK. But following just 13 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (that’s less than .00003% of the readership it was exposed to) the airline has been told to withdraw it due to the fact that the agency believed it “appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour and was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

In response to the ruling Ryanair accused the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of being a “bunch of unelected, self-appointed dimwits [who] are clearly incapable of fairly and impartially ruling on advertising.”

Speaking for the Irish airline its head of communications, Peter Sherrard, said: “The ASA becomes more Monty Pythonesque by the day.” Stating that the company plan to defy the ruling he went on you say. “It is remarkable that a picture of a fully clothed model is now claimed to cause ‘serious or widespread offence’, when many of the UK’s leading daily newspapers regularly run pictures of topless or partially dressed females without causing any serious or widespread offence.”

This is a fair point given that The Sun, one of Britain’s most popular daily newspapers with a daily readership of well over three million people, features a daily picture of a topless or nude girl on page three of the newspaper. The Daily Star, which is read by just under two million people, is equally inclined to show such pictures.

Ryanair is no stranger to this kind of controversy though. The airline incurred the wrath of angry Spanish women last year when it released a charity calendar featuring female flight attendants wearing bikinis. The Institute for Women in Spain complained to Irish and EU authorities over the calendar which raised money for a disabled children’s charity called Angels Quest.

Of course, the depiction of women as sex objects is an age old ‘hot button’ issue, though curiously the depiction of men as sex objects seems to raise little, if any, objection at all.

For example, a charity calendar that featured ripped ‘half naked undertakers‘ was applauded by the media that has already gotten used to half naked firemen charity calendars. Indeed, naked charity calendars are old hat now since a bunch of old dears from a the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute in the UK stripped off for a 2000 calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research.

So what makes one image of a scantily clad person acceptable, and another unacceptable? Why is it that flight attendants in bikinis is offensive to Spanish ladies but buff semi naked morticians are not? Where is the line drawn and why?

In my opinion the Ryanair newspaper ad was not offensive, and certainly no more offensive than Britney’s ‘Baby one more time‘ video or the St Trinians movie which is showing in theatres across the UK at the moment. Maybe I’m missing the point, in which case could someone from that offended .00003% please help me realign my moral compass so that I too can join the moral high club.

The offensive ‘hottest’ ad in full
See me after class please Ryan
Ryanair to defy UK advertising watchdog
Ryanair cabin crew girls strip off for charity calendar
Sexist Irish airline slammed by Spaniard ladies
Ryanair ‘is least liked airline’
Men of Mortuaries
Sexy girls sell coffins