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Advertisement neither 'sexy nor tasteful'

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I refer to the recent correspondences in your magazine and on the RIBAnet. When the marketing director of The Carpet Foundation says that the advertisement was tasteful and fashionable, he forgets that architects too have training in aesthetic awareness. The image of the sad, airbrushed and computer manipulated naked woman was neither sexy, humourous or tasteful (as many of the images in women's fashion magazines are).

John Swannell, the photographer, was only working to the marketing director's brief. The brief appears not only to have been driven by aesthetic considerations but purely commercial interests.

Recently, carpet manufacturers have lost much ground to the timber flooring industry and the advertisement was trying for an eye-catching image to increase sales under the mistaken impression that carpet specifiers include only certain types of men.

The fact that the advert has alienated both men and women cannot be beneficial to carpet manufacturers.

It is true that in the past naked women have been used for selling almost anything, but that only reflected the status of women in general. Even then, women who were respected or powerful were never depicted naked (witness the furore over the topless photographs of the Princess of Wales). As John Berger says in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing: 'To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not be recognised for oneself (BBC 1972).' Women outnumber men in the UK and yet they remain a silent majority for many reasons.

Just because the advert was published in many magazines and people have not objected may not mean they like it. I have showed this advert in two of my public lectures - one of which had 220 tradeswomen. None had seen it before, but all who saw it were incensed. Those who dismiss their reactions as 'politically correct' forget how hurtful such images are to the women and to the profession.

The equal opportunities Forum at RIBA is trying to increase the number of women entrants to the architectural profession.

We would welcome supporters to our forum (it is free and open to both men and women). Please contact us via the RIBA. All are invited to our events which are positive and inspiring.

Sumita Sinha, Equal Opportunities Forum at RIBA, London W14

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