Banning Body Images

Are You Beach Body Ready?London Mayor Sadiq Khan is receiving mixed reviews for banning advertisements on London’s public transportation that promote an unhealthy body image. Advertising for a weight loss supplement first stirred up this controversy a year ago. More than 70,000 people supported a petition to have beach body ready advertising removed from publication.

Khan fulfilled a campaign promise to ban such advertising, saying:

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. Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this.

Writing in the Independent, Jessica Brown praises Khan’s action, saying “We never consented to this sexist wallpaper.”

Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic for the New York Times, offers a dissenting opinion:

I do not believe banning is the answer.

It’s not just because, as Mr. Khan or any other parent well knows, banning something simply makes it much more intriguing.

It’s also because to judge a body healthy or unhealthy is still to judge it. The notion of creating a committee qualified to rule for the public simply reinforces the message that such judgments by those in power are acceptable and necessary.

Instagram: Amy SchumerFriedman celebrates a growing movement toward physical authenticity. Depicting a broad range of bodies in public images – fat and thin, short and tall – reinforces the idea that bodies come in all sizes and shapes.

She has a point. The important trend here is a shift from body shaming toward shaming the body shamers. In a recent Instagram post, Amy Schumer taunted internet trolls, saying “This is how I look. I feel happy. I think I look strong and healthy and also like Miss Trunchbull from Matilda.”

More thought leaders in fashion are embracing genuine physical diversity and reflecting it in their imagery. These are encouraging signs that weight bias and body shaming are becoming socially and culturally unacceptable.

As this trend gains momentum, we hope it will make government censorship irrelevant.

Click here and here for more from the New York Times.

Barefoot, photograph © Markus Spiske / flickr

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June 27, 2016