(In)Appropriate Artwork.

This week The Daily Mail ran a story on how Sainsbury’s have had to apologize to parents after they sent out promotional posters for their new kids and fitness campaign, featuring their project ambassador David Beckham and his TATTOO of a SCANTILY CLAD VICTORIA BECKHAM.

Shock Horror!

I was directed to the article by Skin Deep Magazine’s Facebook page – I’m glad somebody is filtering Daily Mail articles as it means I don’t have to 😉

The article is worth a read, but I would strongly suggest you don’t read the comments underneath, especially if you are tattooed, or are a fan of an inked body or two. To be fair, there are some sensible, inoffensive opinions but I only managed a couple of comments before the risk of me throwing my MacBook through the window became too high, and I was forced to leave the page. It can be viewed here. You have been warned:


The promotional posters were sent to 47000 parents, schools and people who work with children. One nursery complained. That’s pretty good going, and means that either not that many people were offended, or people just can’t be bothered to complain anymore. But still, Sainsbury’s apologized.

The complaint was not about Beckham’s tattoos per se, but about the specifics of one tattoo – his pin-up style Victoria.

I don’t think the debate was over whether or not Sainsbury’s should have used a heavily-tattooed man to promote their campaign – although, as you would expect, some commenters on the Mail site have taken it upon themselves to question the parenting and role-model abilities of a heavily tattooed individual: SNORE, like we haven’t heard that before.

I haven’t seen the posters in person, only the picture in the article – but it seems like people would have to be looking pretty hard to be able to make out a semi-naked woman on Beckham’s arm. Maybe that’s not the point, the point is that it’s there; somebody noticed it and felt strongly enough to complain about it.

So what’s there to complain about?

A Drawing, A Painting, A Piece of art: depicting a woman in her underwear.

I have to say at this point, that of course this issue is completely subjective; different things offend different people. But I also have to say, that in my opinion, our children are subjected to images far more offensive than this.

I would be interested to know if these nursery workers have complained about anything else. Underwear adverts in the weekend papers? Readily available to any child who’s parents are careless enough to leave the newspaper lying around (please insert a slight sarcastic tone here); or Men’s body spray adverts on TV, usually showing images of scantily clad women in a subordinate position to the ‘stud’ male character?

The tattoo is a drawing – any tattoo is a drawing, naked woman or not. Yes I’m pointing out the bleeding-obvious here, but I’m wondering if the medium of the visual image makes a difference. To me, a drawing of a naked woman is a piece of art, and therefore not offensive – but perhaps a photograph, dependent upon pose, intent/agenda and context, can indeed be offensive or at least provocative at times. (This calls for a whole other blog post, by somebody better qualified than me in talking about art and medium!).

I have a three-year-old son, only the other day he picked up my book of pin-ups. I have to admit, I had a fleeting thought  “oh there are pictures of naked pin ups in there should I take it off him and give him the Gruffalo instead”, but that thought soon turned to “they are paintings and drawings of women, would I cover his eyes in an art gallery or museum?”

In my opinion, it’s very different to leaving copies of Nuts and Loaded magazine around the house (not that I have these magazines in the house, but you know what I’m getting at).

It’s an interesting thought – how can photographs sometimes feel inappropriate and offensive, but paintings, drawings and ‘pieces of art’ don’t? But I’m getting off the point here, because the women at the nursery did find this drawing offensive and certainly not suitable for children.

I wonder if the complaining nursery workers cover the eyes of children when visiting an exhibition, gallery or museum? Maybe I should be protecting my son from pieces of art now? Are galleries inappropriate places for small children? I don’t think so. But I could be wrong.

I think if my son saw the posters of Beckham, he is far more likely to point to the tattoos and liken them to “Mummy’s and Daddy’s tattoos” rather than pointing to the semi-naked woman and wondering what it was or what message it was conveying. Other children of non-tattooed parents would, I’m sure, be more interested in Beckham himself than the fact he’s got a hardly-noticeable pin-up on his only-just-noticeable arm.

I think my point is thus:

Tattoos are an art form.

I do not feel the need to ‘protect’ my son from pieces of art.

I do however feel the need to protect my son from sexually-inappropriate or degrading images of women and men. The image Beckham has on his arm does not, in my opinion, fall into this category.

And just for the record, anyone who thinks being heavily tattooed affects one’s ability to parent or be a role model in any way is a Wally (in my opinion, obviously).