When I saw the yellow-and-grey poster on the Tube, my first thought was: I smell a troll. I didn’t yet know how right I was. Fast forward to now, and we’ve had: backlash right on schedule, backlash to backlash, ad infinitum. We’ve had comments, subvertising, discussions, #PlusSizeWars (reminiscent of #fatkini hashtag first showing up – we can’t have plus sized women in pictures, because UNHEALTHY!); we’ve had juvenile responses from the CEO of the company, who had the best time evah taking over Twitter from “the usual girl” to deal some wisdom (“Why make your insecurities our problem“, if you were wondering, translates to “Why should I take responsibility for my campaign or my words”; that’s company’s CEO, Arjun Seth, discussing eating disorders with Juliette Burton). All of this and more is raging in our public spaces, from Twittersphere to new and improved versions of the posters. Things went real, and real fast, too. Also, there were tapir pictures. Really.
Now, unless you 1) don’t live in London 2) don’t live in the UK and/or 3) live under a rock, you know what I’m talking about. Protein World created a campaign with a conventionally beautiful model, which is not exactly original or worth-remembering. It’s only one of a zillion conventionally beautiful models that I saw on my LUNCHBREAK. But they also added a slogan “Are you beach body ready”, and it seems that as a society, we are tired of getting that particular message shoved down our collective throat. In fact, if I read another article, advocating how I need to diet in advance to be acceptable to look at, I may vomit grey and yellow.
In essence, Protein World are getting a ride from sexism and patriarchy, while staunchly claiming they ran all the way and showing off their #healthylifestyle. They created an ad that is all about looks, but when criticised, they accuse you of fit-shaming. They suggest you should aspire to fitness of Renee Somerfield (the model), but 1) you shouldn’t aspire to anything you don’t want to aspire to (obviously) 2) Renee’s undeniable strength and fitness have been presented in a tiny bikini, making it no different from all other images that are about certain type of physical beauty (and how we must have it, or else the last f**kable day shall come!) 3) making fitness a requirement for the beach isn’t much better than making beach about some subjective beauty ideal. So, you know, leave the beach alone.
The company played their cards strategically, and even though they pretend to be moral champions, talking about “a healthy nation“, they’ve done so to sell; they decided to polarize their audience, not apologising for their attitude and there are voices that their strategy is working. However, what interests me is a huge wave of body positivity that happened in response to this ad.
These are two awesome human beings above who represent a GOOD outcome of this situation. Fiona of Escapologist’s Daughter and Tara of Zusterschap Collective put their bikini bodies where their mouth is and posed in front of the poster. Not only that, they are organising a protest/celebration this Saturday, 3 p.m., Hyde Park. Join me in praying for good weather. In fact, join us in showing the world our bodies, as they are – beach ready. Your body is absolutely welcome.
Isn’t it tiring to see – again and again – ads that make our bodies objects to sell other objects, or limiting concepts of how we should be? I love the fact that I’m attending an honest-to-god protest (and buying my first ever two-piece bikini for the occasion!). With this ad, more brazen than usual, we are taking a stand: you don’t get to define my body for me. Self-love is healthier than body-shaming under the guise of health concern. And I don’t even have to buy a protein shake.
Contact the organisers on Twitter:
The image was used with permission of the organisers.