For as long as I can remember, women’s magazines, ad campaigns and other similarly shady media have been doing a brilliant job of making girls feel crap about their bodies just in time for their summer holiday.
They’ve done this peddling the idea of a perfect bikini body, which (cheesy salesman voice…) you too can attain by buying whatever it is they have to sell. Be that a magazine, breakfast cereal, bikini, protein powder (more on them later) and so on.
Never mind the fact the most attractive people on the beach tend to be the ones surfing or having a laugh or even just smiling as opposed to those sun lounger-types driven sour-faced by permanently sucking in their tummies, lest someone capture them looking vaguely non-hot on an iPhone.
Then, two years ago the beginnings of a backlash started. Most notably in this post by Inner Subversion on Facebook:
And this week the revolt reached its zenith with these feisty responses to this Protein World ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ad on the London Underground. The reactions went viral, an online petition was started and a march against the ad is planned in London for this Saturday.
The ads have now been taken down, though there’s some debate as to whether that was deliberate or just the end of their pre-planned run.
All of which might seem like a ridiculous overreaction to one particular advert, especially when it’s not as if Protein World are the only ones using the beach body ideal to shift units. A point the brand themselves drew attention to this week with this tweet:
Though they also called those who defaced their ad posters ‘terrorists’ so it’s safe to say they had a mixed week PR-wise…
It’s important to note this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about fit-shaming the Protein World model for looking awesome in a bikini. The problem is that she’s shown next to a load of weight-loss products, so the not-particularly-subliminal message is her body comes from that, rather than say surfing or working out and eating healthy stuff, which is a far more likely not to mention sanity-promoting scenario.
"no one should feel terrified of what they look like on their summer holiday"
The ad would have been far more palatable if she’d been shown next to a surfboard or a pair of running shoes, as being in healthy good shape is of course great. This week the top UK snowboarder Aimee Fuller reminded us that ‘Fit is the new skinny’, and anything that takes us away from the alarming #thinspo trends, which our friends at Cooler wrote about recently, can only be a good thing.
But the biggest point of all is that no one should feel terrified of what they look like on their summer holiday. Girl or guy. Beaches are for good times, not stressing. A message many more brands will have taken on board this week. Here's hoping anyway.