This was an advertisement run by Protein World in 2015 to promote their new weight loss products. It features an incredibly thin Caucasian woman with blonde hair, full lips, a tiny waist, smooth skin all the way down to her bikini line, and full breasts. The text beside her reads, “Are you beach body ready?”. This loaded question, along with the portrayal of a, “perfect”, body according to societal standards, suggests that you, the consumer, with your normal, imperfect body, is not ready for the beach. The headline is followed immediately by the introduction of their weightless collection, suggesting that, if you don’t look like the woman in the ad, then you need to purchase our weight loss products.
There are two main problems with this ad: The promotion of unhealthy and unattainable beauty standards, and the sexualization of women. I will start by dissecting the problem of beauty standards, as there are several in this regard. First, it perpetuates the following harmful narrative: First, that there is only one body type that is acceptable for the beach: One that looks like the woman in the ad. Any body that doesn’t look like the one pictured isn’t, “ready”, for the beach, and in turn doesn’t deserve to be at the beach. This breeds a sense of shame, insecurity, and stigma towards the normal bodies of women. Second, that this body is one that you should want to achieve. Third, that is body is incredibly difficult to achieve through healthy means, so you need to resort to buying our weight loss products. These ideas together cumulate to the outcome of women and girls convinced that they need this body, and resort to achieving it through any means possible, such as fad diets, starvation, and developing harmful eating disorders. This ad preys on the insecurities women have that were sold to them and perpetuated by the beauty, fitness, and, “health”, industries.
The second problem with this ad is the sexualization of the model. Over a study for nearly 2000 advertisement across 58 magazines, it was found that 51.8% of advertisements featured women as sexual objects (Stankiewicz and Rosselli, 2008). This ad is not an exception. This is seen through the visual aspect of the ad. The model stands with her legs spread apart and her shoulders pulled back to emphasize her breasts and hips. The woman’s body is edited to be black and white, while her bikini is colourized, again bringing emphasis to her breasts and hips. The bold text is at the same eye-level las her breasts, further drawing attention to them. Furthermore, she is seen from an upward angle that takes away focus from her eyes, unto her hip area, diminishing the viewer’s connection to the woman was a person, thereby painting her a sexual object for the male gaze.
This ad has been jammed by body-positivity movements, replacing the model with plus sized models. I wanted to take a different approach, as I believe that the body of the woman in this photo is equally valid, and “beach ready”, as any woman’s body, plus sized or not. In this jammed version, the headline reads, “She has a beach body. You do too”, with the second sentence shown in larger font, and the “you” in a significantly larger font, occupying its own line. This emphasis on “you” takes the attention away from the model and on to the audience. I wanted this jam to represent true body positivity and size inclusiveness. Oftentimes when we explore those two concepts we think of plus size, or size inclusiveness on the higher end of the spectrum. This ad promotes true inclusivity, by telling girls who do look like the model, either through diet and exercise, or through genetics, that they are worthy too and that their body will not be erased in the discussion of body positivity. Not only does this new ad make everybody feel like they’re worthy, valid, and “beach ready” (as it sends a personal message to everyone reading the ad that they are), it also jabs at one of the core values of culture jamming, which is to dismantle consumerism. By telling the audience that they are beach ready, it communicates a less product and consumerism-driven message. If the audience wishes to lose weight, she may opt into buying the weightless products. If she is happy with her body, which the ad explicitly tells her that she should be, then she will simply continue along in her day. Moreover, this jammed ad forces the audience to question the status quo. In a world where ads like the original are rampant and accepted as the norm, this new ad presents a refreshing new idea. It may be the only positive ad the woman sees in a day, but the power of one ad that goes against the mainstream and status quo can invoke a lot of emotion and be a catalyst for larger, deeper conversations between the woman and herself, her friends and family, colleagues, etc. This ad diverts from the social norm and can be used as a tool for social change.
This jammed ad also removes the sexualization of the model, as though she appears as she is in the original ad, she is not used to sell a product per se. In the context of this jammed ad, her body is used as a reference for what a beach body could potentially look like. It is not portrayed as an ideal, or a tool to push sales, but rather as a point of reference for women and girls who also have bodies that look like the model’s, sending the message that they, along with anybody, is beach body ready. Further, the audience for the original ad is both genders: The sexualized model draws male attention, and they feel entitled to pass judgement: “She has a beach body. The woman beside me on the subway does not”. Women on the other hand were made to feel ashamed of their own bodies. With the personalized “you” used in the jammed ad, the target audience of the ad shifts mostly towards women, as they can identify with the “you”. Men, on the other hand, feel as they have no business reacting to the ad in any way, as they cannot relate to the implicitly feminine “you” used in the ad. As a result, this takes away the hyper-sexualized aspect of the ad, as it becomes more susceptible to women (I recognize the I am excluding gay women who could sexualize her, but even with gay women, there is still the aspect of relatability in the ad), and less towards men.
Stankiewicz, J. M., & Rosselli, F. (2008). Women as Sex Objects and Victims in Print Advertisements. Sex Roles, 58(7-8), 579-589. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9359-1