Body Shaming Vs Censorship: The Problem With Protein World's Khloe Kardashian Advert

17/02/2017 12:05

As one of many London commuters, I have recently been exposed to Protein World's latest contribution to the dieting world - an advert featuring Khloe Kardashian in a tight-fitting leotard.

The advert asks women 'Can you keep up with a Kardashian?' and proceeds to advertise its '30 Day Challenge' to weight loss. According to the Protein World website, the challenge will, apparently, allow me to "start my transformation to total body confidence". Yippee.

So can I keep up with Khloe Kardashian? No. No woman can. Even Khloe can't as the image of her put forward in Protein World's advertising campaign doesn't look anything like the woman herself.

No matter how many of Protein World's products are consumed, no one will ever come close to the airbrushed, suctioned, flawless image put forward in the advertisement.

However, should we as a society be concerned about the implications of this? Do such adverts really contribute to a culture of body shaming which places unrealistic expectations on young women and girls? And, if such adverts are to be removed or censored, where do we draw the line?

In 2016, London Mayor Sadiq Khan bravely opted to remove Protein World's prior advertising campaign. The 'Are you beach body ready?' posters, which featured a large airbrushed suctioned image of a woman in a yellow bikini, were banned from the city's transport network in a bid to "stop promoting unrealistic expectations about body image and health".

Discussions are now circulating in the media as to whether he will have the same response to the Kardashian campaign.

I listened to a debate about this on the radio this morning which raised some concerning points. According to the presenter of the radio show, and a number of his callers, removing the adverts is not the way forward. As is often the case in debates on gender, sex and media effects (it makes for a good rhyme), there is a sensationalised jump to "you can't blame an advert for a rise in eating disorders or body image issues".

No, of course you can't. But as the presenter laughed his way through such 'extreme' claims, (which he himself had put forward), he suddenly changed his tone when a woman suffering from breast cancer phoned in. She informed him that she had asked her local pharmacy to remove the advert featuring Khloe Kardashian as she felt it disrespectful and insensitive to all women who are enduring breast cancer and its aftermath.

The presenter failed to laugh off this observation and, as is almost always the case when the 'C' word is brought into the mix, he backed down and said he completely understood her concerns.

So, according to the views of this radio show, it seems that breast cancer sufferers have a right to request the removal of the Kardashian advert, but anorexia sufferers need to get over themselves?

There is a clear disparity here.

In my feminist opinion, the advert is symbolic of the culture and times in which we are living. A culture that bombards both women and men not only with unrealistic images but with lifestyles that are consistently beyond their reach. It's no wonder there is a mental health crisis in the UK.

What's all the more concerning is the way in which the image of Kardashian emblazoned through London's transport network indicates our desensitisation to such imagery and what it demands of women. It's just another advert reminding women of society's preference for them to attain unrealistic notions of beauty.

Most women probably haven't even noticed the advert as they were too busy flicking through Instagram filters.

And no, I have not instantly responded to the advert by rushing out to buy some Protein World, or crying myself to sleep due to the fact that I'll never measure up to such a body type. Of course, the advert cannot be solely blamed for the rise in body dysmorphic disorders or the deep depression many women experience due to body shaming. When I saw the advert, I rolled my eyes and simply thought, here we go again...

I would be fascinated to spend a day in a society where all advertising campaigns targeted at women are reversed and instead targeted at men. Where we can see clear protruding biceps and bulging boxers and inform all the hard-working men who take the underground network every day (and, for the purposes of this thought experiment are paid less than women), that they just don't measure up to what society says is the perfect form of masculinity.

This is the scenario women endure daily and it is indeed a strange society to have to live in. To be a woman in work attire with a 'career' job, stood on a packed train to Canary Wharf, mainly surrounded by men, where the images around us remind the carriage of my breasts, buttocks and sexual capital (or apparent lack of it), is a tedious experience to bear.

I hope Sadiq Khan does decide to remove the Khloe Kardashian adverts. The Kardashians' net worth is $339 million and their fame has mostly derived from older sister Kim Kardashian's sex tape, along with their vast array of celebrity connections. It's not the most inspiring of stories.

I'd rather see a more motivational advert on the train, even if this is for dieting. Further to this, I'd like to see an equal proportion of dieting adverts aimed at women and men. If a woman should be 'beach body ready', why shouldn't a man too?

So no, censorship wouldn't remove the problem in its entirety but it would be a good place to start. And in terms of lines and where they should be drawn, here's one - equality. If you want to objectify the body and place pressure on individuals that's fine, but do it equally.

I'm all for equality of objectification.

So here's to Khloe's brother Rob Kardashian gracing the transport network with his significant weight loss, bulging biceps and tight fitting speedos. Wake me up when it happens.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS