[dropcap size=small bg_color=”#21409a”]E[/dropcap]arlier this year, an article published by Exeposé responded to the advert which has caused so much controversy – Protein World’s ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ The article essentially argued that Protein World isn’t alone in its problematic advertising, so what’s the big fuss about? We could be targeting any number of advertisements directed at women – L’Oréal, Herbal Essences, and many other hair and make-up brands.
This is of course true, the advertising industry as a whole deserves to be analysed, discussed and criticised in the same way that the Protein World advert has been. But just because this is not the only advert to sexualise the female body or set expectations on how the female body should appear, that does not make it OK. After all, two wrongs never make a right.
The advert would have probably passed us all by if it hadn’t been so aggressively shoved in everyone’s faces through the huge posters plastered across almost every London underground station. Let’s be honest, no woman wants to be probed about her ‘beach body’ readiness, especially during her early morning commute. So whilst the advert may not have done anything outside the usual seedy codes of advertising, its sheer invasiveness aggravated people. And quite frankly, that is great. It is wonderful to see people finally taking a stand against the media’s portrayal of women and the advertising industries constant need to instruct women on how they should live their lives. Hopefully this has opened the floodgates for more discussion.
So the question of everyone’s lips: Is the Protein World Advert Sexist?
I can understand both sides of the argument. Protein World is a weight-loss company and is thus promoting weight-loss through the body of the well-toned female. In theory – this makes sense. But the emphasis on the yellow bikini set against the black and white backdrop clearly draws attention to the model’s breasts – this has little to do with weight-loss and more to do with the sexualisation of her body. Most problematic of all is the slogan ‘Are You Beach Body Ready Yet?’ If you want to be fit for summer, that is great. But isn’t it time we stopped being told we need to get fit for summer?
As women, from the moment we are born we are told conflicting things about our bodies: one minute we are told to cover ourselves and be ashamed of our bodies and the next we are told to flaunt it and sexualise it. So OK, the Protein World advert may just be one example amongst many, and it may not be doing anything radically sexist compared to other offenders. But maybe after seeing the same imposing advert smeared across tube station after tube station, commuters finally thought ‘we have had enough with being told how our bodies should be and how we should feel about our bodies’. The Protein World advert may be only one of many guilty offenders, but that’s the risk the company ran when they plastered their advert all over the London Underground.
But not wanting to judge a company too much for a single advert (beach body ready isn’t a new concept after all) I took to social media to find out more about Protein World as a company. For anyone in two minds; I recommend you do the same. Upon visiting their twitter page, the first thing you are greeted with is a bombardment of re-tweeted images of girls posing with protein world merchandise in various provocative positions (and almost always a push up bra) – regardless of the image in the advert, these re-tweeted images are clearly less about weight loss and more about sexualising the female body.
As I continued to scroll through their feed, Protein World’s attitude towards women became more and more apparent. Their ‘Beach Body Ready’ advert had caused a huge stir and a lot of women had taken to twitter to voice their opinions. Instead of handling the criticisms they had received in a mature and professional manner, Protein World responded by re-tweeting literally hundreds of anti-feminist tweets. They reposted congratulations for ‘putting feminists in their places’, they reposted comments describing feminists as ‘evil’, ‘disgrace’, ‘awful’, and they reposted comments which used profanities and degrading images to describe feminists.
Moreover, the company defined the, urm, ‘haters’ (really?) as ‘jealous’, ‘fat’ and ‘lazy’ and went on a rampage against ‘fatties’ who need to be ‘shamed into losing weight’. So whilst the advert itself may be open to debate, there is little doubt about Protein World’s attitude towards women. The advert, although it does not sit comfortably with many (myself included), may not be exceptionally sexist in the face of the continued flow of objectifying advertisements today. But as a company, Protein World has proved itself as little more than an online bully, which completely misunderstands what feminism is, or worse, doesn’t care.
Regardless of what you think of the advert, do not be fooled. Protein World is a company which enjoys objectifying the women it deems attractive enough, and attacking the women it deems not. What they didn’t execute fully in their advert, they did in their terrible twitter feed.