Wincing whilst walking down the high street

by helenwhattt

Now, I’m not one to ordinarily grumble for prolonged periods about the the abysmal state of the advertising market, which less the “fashion, beauty, health and self-loathing-by-direct-debit” market, one which, as I’m sure we can all agree, more resembles smeared bullshit with a daub of the blood of the innocents than anything even near the Unspeakable Truth. At the end of the day, I do like to, however naively optimistic it might seem- judging from the state of some of the sub-human, pitiful shambling cretins that could barely pass for people even under the most lenient of criteria I encounter on a day to day basis (the people who designed this advert, for example)- imagine that most people aren’t so passively gormless and impressionable that such mediums should have any effect on them, other than providing a vague chuckle on the way to work, for example.

Sadly, I know that it is not the case. And I do know how damaging certain messages can be to the general populace, especially if they’re drip-fed so slyly and subtly it’s almost as if it’s not happening, it makes a shiver run down my spine just thinking about it. I don’t want to give credence to any patronising hypodermic needle theory here, but one must question, if the advertisers didn’t think they would have an effect, then why create such an advert in the first place? The sorry truth is, that whilst I’m remain living in hope that the vast majority of people exposed to this piece of advertising will just snort scornfully and carry on with their business, there are a number who won’t. And here is when the effect is undeniably, dangerously negative.

So bear with me, whilst I step out of character for a moment, and draw your attention to this charming piece of art I encountered in my local town yesterday:


I don’t know about you, but this, in my eyes, overstepped a line. And I promise you, on most occasions with adverts I just shake my head despairingly, bite my tongue and carry on, defeated by the sheer stupidity of the world. But this made me stop. And take a photo, even. And that takes a particular amount of anger.

I won’t fall down the oft-wrongly-trod path of “OMGZ diS is BLATANT 3ncurigingz of anorexier!!1!!11″. Whatever your opinion on the issue may be, I belong to the school of thought where media images are thought to not play as large as role in the development of eating disorders as (ironically) the media would like you to believe. There is a lot more to the terrible, delicate nature of AN, BN, and the host of other life-destroying psychological illnesses, than merely seeing a photograph of a slim woman, or even three peppers of decreasing size.

And of course, ladies, the smaller, the “hotter”!

When approaching others about this particular advert, I got a lot of “but, um, a chilli pepper is hotter…” Yes, thank you for enlightening me in regards to that, but that’s not what I’m on about. What I want to address is the obvious, undisguised “shaming” (oh, how I loathe that word) of bodies shapes differing from the societal expectation of, apparently (you guessed it) nice and slim. Seriously, I may be spending too much time in the more enlightened regions of the internet, and around the more enlightened of people, but I thought we were somehow, slowly but surely, getting over this ridiculous notion that one body shape is “better” (or “hotter”- whatever that’s supposed to mean) than another? But apparently not.

Regardless of whether or not ~this~ sort of advertising contributes to, or is even relevant to the likelihood of someone developing an ED, it’s still in my opinion, a very damaging message to send out. People may argue “but it’s a gym advert, it’s not encouraging anything other than health”, and, alright, it’s a gym advert, but I still don’t really think you’re at the crux of the point. Yet again, we have another example of thousands of women (and men; it’s quite rare to find such a gender-neutral advert as this, but I will still assume the target market as predominantly women. I can’t imagine a lot of the hyper-masculine “lads” of this day and age relishing the thought of being described as “hot”, but I may have that wrong.) being belittled and demoralised simply because of the way their body is built. This isn’t a matter of health, but of policing. Not to mention making money from the growing tide of self-hatred ever more apparent in today’s society; people under the impression that they will not be sucessful, they will not be loved, they will not be beautiful, they will never have even the smallest morsel of self-worth unless they adhere to this strict criteria of what we as a society see as acceptable. 

And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fairly fucking sick of it.

Where are our “okay, you could lose 5lbs but it’s nothing serious” ads? Our “eat a cake #YOLO” slogans? I’m not condoning excessive over-eating, but I completely abhore this idea that it’s somehow “their place” to tell us what to do with our bodies, even more than the ridiculous notion that somehow this mystical, unachievable plane of “health” is the be all and end of all of your life. It just isn’t. I’m sorry, but if you view yourself as nothing more than the different types of multi-grain you can force yourself to consume (because let’s face it, it tastes like someone has shit out cardboard on the most part) and the amount of sit-ups you can do in a minute, then you need to seriously readdress your life my friend. Get a hobby. Start painting. It may surprise you but There Is More To Life Than That.

Want to be hot for summer? Be healthy (if you want), be happy, be confident in yourself. Because there’s only one thing that will come of religiously following such rigidly imposed standards of “health and beauty”, and it ain’t happiness babe. Far, far from it. It’s a bleak, bleak tunnel of whole-grains and worn down knee-joints, and a nauseating holier-than-thou complex that will, I promise you, make people want to punch you repeatedly in your smug, self-righteous, preservative-free throat. And, to be honest, I can’t think of anything less hot than that.