The simple answer is yes. We all are. We all own bodies and they can all be taken to a beach.
This is the sentiment of tweets and articles that have been trending all over social media in response to the latest Protein World products, aptly named ‘The Weightloss Collection’. I saw the poster above for the first time on my tube journey home today, and spent a decent amount of time frowning at it, before promptly forgetting all about it. From my own experiences, as a feminist, you spend a lot of time frowning at advertisements and quite often you simply can’t remember all the things that have made you groan with frustration in a single day. This series of advertisements rose to my attention again, however, because it seems that there has been a considerable backlash against them.
There are many companies in the advertising business whose main trajectory, when selling to women, is to either present their readers with a picture of a ‘fat girl’ whilst simultaneously warning you that you might end up the same way, or to present them with the ‘ideal girl’ and encourage you to buy their product in order to look like that. What is quite interesting about the Protein World advert is that, like a lot of adverts for ‘workout products’ it paints ‘fit as the new ‘skinny’. By interesting, I mean disgusting and manipulative, of course. Protein World, by making the focus of the advert a woman who is ‘fit’ rather than ‘skinny’, believes that has managed to avoid falling into the fatphobic category of advertising. It is promoting a healthy lifestyle, a wholesome image – not celebrating skinny or berating those who are overweight.
Except it does. Not only is it absolutely impossible to tell whether a person is fit or not from a photo alone (see here for some stats on that ) but the slogan is also a tell tale sign that the Protein World is so far away from caring about your health. ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’. Subtext: if you don’t look like this chick, the chances are you aren’t. Instead of selling you diet pills or SlimFast – Protein World wants you to hit the treadmill and drink some shakes! They are still feeding into the myth that there is only one way a woman’s body is allowed to look. Let’s forget that the model on the posters is quite clearly airbrushed, or that the package allowing you to be this Beach Body Ready will only set you back £62. Or that the entire package is called ‘The Weightloss Collection’. There is only one way that you can be Beach Body Ready, and that is to lose some weight.
Sadly, this is not new territory, as I said before. Advertisers rely on the insecurities and low self esteem of women all over the world to be able to sell products. What was unique, and pleasantly surprising, was the reaction to this campaign. Hundreds have already signed a petition for the adverts to be taken down, citing them as sexist. Hopefully TFL will listen.
It feels as though society is slowly wising up to adverts like this, and attempting dismantle the fatphobic ideology. Feminism has become popular in the mainstream recently, thanks to celebrities like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, and young women are slowly realising that they do not have to put up with their insecurities being hijacked like this. Whilst the adverts themselves are demeaning, disgusting and incredibly sexist, the reaction to them shows that women are taking back the body image debate. Because there shouldn’t be a debate. It’s your body, not theirs.