London Mayor Sadiq Khan became the darling of the internet this week when he announced a ban on “body-shaming” ads on the Tube, but it’s not going to work.
The ban affects adverts run by Transport for London. Speaking about the policy, Khan said:
“As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end.”
Ads like last year’s infamous “beach body ready” campaign attracted a lot of negative attention from people who acted like it was the first advertisement they’d ever seen. The image, featuring a woman with the stereotypical toned bikini body, was accused of “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.”
This isn’t a novel idea. Since the dawn of advertising, the industry’s been built on making you feel bad so that you’ll buy their shit; men with unattainable six-packs encourage you to work out or buy some aftershave to fool women into thinking you’re a cool guy.
Rich people drive around in supercars we can’t afford on empty roads that don’t exist, meeting their perfect match.com soulmates at bars we’d be turned away from while never doing any work.
All the while, these perfect people look back at us, watching TV in our joggers with a takeaway pizza, as if to say: “Why isn’t your life like this?”
Clearly it’s because we don’t have the latest iPad/Jaguar/Lynx Africa/L’Oreal hair colour to transport us away from this imperfect world of high rent, zero-hours contracts and buses that smell like marijuana. If you actually banned adverts that made people feel bad about their lives, there wouldn’t be any left.
Not to mention that banning portrayals of women that look healthy and physically fit is exactly the opposite of body positivity; it shifts the shame from one body type to another, making them feel ashamed because looking at them made you feel ashamed. For anybody who really cares about diversity in advertising, an outright ban is the worst thing that could happen.
Advertisers use bikini models because it seems to work. If you really want to change things put your money where your mouth is and spend it elsewhere. Alternatively, stop worrying about buying the perfect life or being “beach body ready” – have you been to a beach lately? There really are no body requirements.