I was chatting this week to a old friend on the topic of the Beach Bodies adverts, she sent me a text later, which read:
"You beaut, I love you for fighting for our homeland, the beach and sea and all the creatures that delve into it xx".
Growing up together, ankle deep in the East Anglian sea, we formed a life-long friendship and our beach playtime was a big part of that bond. Her comment suddenly struck me as worth acting on. There are many ways you could find fault with this advert but my main motivation had to be this: the ad is a case in point of how businesses are tampering with our peace of mind for the sake of their profits.
In the hectic modern world many of us seek escape through trips to the seaside and other natural environments. By putting forward the idea that there is such a thing as 'a beach body' it gives the neutral territory of a beach a standard by which people are deemed 'ready' or 'unready'. In other words, this place of break time - from work, from stress, from doing - now has requirements. They have made our 'acceptibility' for a beach holiday dependent on what we look like and if we don't meet these standards of readiness they are selling us the answer in the form of a slimming protein shake. It is discrimination. For what gain? Profit for Protein World.
Imagine a magazine next to you with the head line - "Are you Jungle Body ready?" or "Are you Mountain Body ready?" it sounds ridiculous. The major difference between the beach and these other spaces is that at the beach people generally get their kit off, and so it's ripe for those seeking to exploit body image concerns and convince people into buying slimming products.
How do they do this? They create an ideal norm, 'A Beach Body' (cue young, pretty model in bikini) to which we are invited to compare ourselves. Suddenly even the most Zen of us are subconsciously thinking, "I don't look like her = I'm not 'ready'", the hope of the marketing department is that the next step is "so I should buy this product to make me look more acceptable in a bikini".
By quietly accepting this type of shame-focused advertising we allow businesses such as these to propagate an idea of 'The Beach Body', and now it is emblazoned on the London Underground in massive capital letters. But thankfully it seems as though my own indignation has company. A lot of company. The London public are not standing by in 2015 to watch an advert like this come and go and leave it's sleazy mark.
30,000 people have signed a petition to have the ads taken down; the fight for equality and natural beauty is burning bright. Armed with hashtags, puns, post it notes and marker pens people are taking to train carriages and responding in all manner of hilarious put downs. Here are some of the best:
I think the backlash to this ad shows that the dinosaurs in the boardrooms are waaaaay behind what's happening on street level. Protein World have refused to take down the ads, saying:
"It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren't focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger."
Completely missing the point here, I can't speak on behalf of anyone, but our group of activists, myself included are very keen on aspiring to be fitter and healthier. Our issue is that they are not promoting general health and wellbeing, but are engaged in intimidating potentially vulnerable people into buying a product that will make them look more acceptable or 'ready' on a beach.
Whatever happens it has given me renewed hope that members of the public are so ready to take action and with a humour that preserves what the beach should be about: fun, relaxation and play time.
Our #eachbodysready campaign, sets out to prove there's nothing more effective than a good old giggle. So, get out your bucket and spade, imagine those waves lapping on the sand and show the world, not Protein World but the real world, how you were born ready!
If you want to join in the campaign, photos are happily received at www.facebook.com/eachbodysreadySuggest a correction