The feminism book banned from Amazon Ads over ‘sexually suggestive’ cover

Dr Victoria Bateman
Dr Victoria Bateman

A Cambridge professor’s book on feminism was banned from being advertised on Amazon for having a “sexually suggestive” cover.

Dr Victoria Bateman, an economics lecturer and fellow at Gonville & Caius, has released a new book, titled Naked Feminism: Breaking the Cult of Female Modesty, which features a cropped photo of her torso showing her stomach and part of her breasts on the book jacket.

Amazon began selling the book earlier this month. However, Dr Bateman’s publisher, Polity, said it was told last week that Amazon was refusing to advertise the book because the cover “contains sexually suggestive content”.

Amazon reaffirmed its decision to block adverts of the book cover after the publisher appealed. However, after the online retailer was contacted by The Telegraph on Tuesday, it lifted the ban, Dr Bateman said.

The economist, 43, said it was “ironic” that Amazon is “policing women’s bodies over a book which delves into the 4,000-year history of women’s bodies being policed”.

The cover of Dr Victoria's Bateman’s new book was deemed to contain 'sexually suggestive content'
The cover of Dr Victoria's Bateman’s new book was deemed to contain 'sexually suggestive content'

“In some ways I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she told The Telegraph.

“But at the same time, my book is serious. It is talking about the reality of women’s lives across the globe, where women’s lives are being seriously constrained because their society thinks that their bodily modesty is more important than their education or their ability to travel or go out and get paid work.”

She also said that the cover photo is “so zoomed in” towards her stomach that it is about as “indecent” or “decent” as wearing a bikini.

“While you might expect Amazon Ads to be opposed to freeing the nipple, in this case there’s not even the edge of a nipple in sight,” she said before the U-turn by the retailer. “It appears that Amazon won’t even free the cleavage.”

The initial decision by Amazon would have meant that her book didn’t appear as a sponsored book recommendation when customers search for titles on similar topics and would impact sales, according to Dr Bateman.

Louise Knight, from Polity, said Amazon’s earlier decision was “beyond ironic”, and “yet another example of the puritanical policing of women’s bodies”.

She said the book cover was “subtle, elegant and timeless”.

Dr Bateman has become known in recent years for staging nude protests against the neglect of women in economic history.

Dr Victoria Bateman - PA
Dr Victoria Bateman - PA

In 2019, she surprised John Humphrey on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme by stripping off and then challenging Jacob Rees-Mogg to debate with her naked.

Dr Bateman said she grew up in Oldham, Greater Manchester, in the 1990s, where she regularly witnessed young women “being treated like dirt because of the way they dressed”.

She said her initial response was to cover up. However, in her 30s she “decided to question the whole idea that a woman’s worth and respect should depend on her bodily modesty, and to show that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between their bodies and their brains - even if Amazon Ads would like us to.”

She said that she wrote her book “in response to the criticism that I have received since, and the continued hold that the ‘cult of female modesty’ has on the lives of women and girls across the world, most noticeably in Iran and Afghanistan”.

Dr Bateman added: “My feminist utopia is a world in which all women are free to do what they want with their bodies as well as their brains.”

Amazon has been contacted for comment.