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As I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen, Protein World released a new advertising poster last week. It featured a muscled, toned Amazon with long flowing locks staring brazenly at the viewer, with the words “Are you beach body ready?” capitalised next to her. There has been a fair bit of backlash from this, with an investigation by the Advertising Standard Agency to establish whether or not it breaks harm and offence rules.
My first thoughts on this were ones of anger. We don’t need another reminder of what society feels that women (and men) should look like. I, like many other girls my age, spent my high school years worrying over what I looked like. I had been taken in by the lie that my self-worth was tied in to my image. This belief has permeated every part of today’s society. Everywhere you look there are adverts for weight loss, muscle gain, how to get your post-baby body, and a hundred and ten other ways to achieve the body society thinks we should have.
After researching for this article, though, I have changed my opinion. It feels as if we are body-shaming the model, Renee Somerfield, for merely having a good set of genes and a healthy lifestyle. I think this is the issue we have to deal with here. Yes, Protein World advertisement is irresponsible and implies that only a certain body type should be seen on beaches. But we cannot start to skinny-shame a woman who happens to have the body type idealised by society.
I think we all recognise that fat-shaming is wrong but it seems to have swung the opposite way. But why is skinny-shaming okay if fat-shaming is so wrong? There is nothing wrong with going to the gym and eating a certain diet so long as you are healthy, just as there is nothing wrong with not wanting to do these things. What the issue is, is attacking people for choosing one or the other, and making people feel ashamed of their body if they don’t conform to what we, as a society, deem is the “correct” way to look.
We seem to have an inability to accept that people will look different. There are health consequences for the overweight and the underweight but shaming them is unlikely to make them change. Most people in those situations are hyper-aware of their body and what they look like. Drawing attention to it and making snide, bullying remarks is not helpful. The body acceptance movements are a great start to this – with comments left on the posters such as “every body is a beach body”, but it is the comments such as “fuck off” that I take issue to. It’s as if no matter what women can’t have a body that is the right body. If it is too thin she’s a skinny bitch and slave to societal pressures in need of some curves, but if she’s too heavy then she’s unhealthy and needs some self-control. It’s a hard line to walk, the difference between having the “perfect” body (what even is that?) and being “too fat” or “too skinny”.
As Mary George, from the eating disorder charity B-eat, has said: “Why is it that – in a world where we are rightly mindful of colour creed and sexuality – it is still thought acceptable to criticise someone’s shape and size?” That is the crux of the argument. We know that it is wrong to remark badly upon someone’s race or sexuality but when it comes to their body it’s like a free-for-all. We need to stop commenting on women’s and men’s eating habits and bodies. End of story. Because at the end of the day, our body is merely the physiological vessel that carries us through life. There is more to each one of us then our bodies and what we look like. And it seems as if everyone has forgotten that in the midst of the health and fitness and skinny and perfect images we see every day. Imagine if no one was made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their body. Maybe that’s what we need to be putting out there, not shaming people for not fitting the cookie cutter perfect body.