Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 30th 2015 Contents B9
Thursday, April 30, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
"Are you beach body ready?"
shouts the giant billboard poster
from across the train tracks. I see
it every day on my way home.
There are hundreds of them dis-
played around London Under-
ground stations and, unlike most
advertising, they are impossible
The poster shows a toned
woman in a yellow bikini on a
bright yellow background. Her
waist, breasts, legs, arms, blonde
hair are all just as the magazines
say they should be.
They aren t speaking to me,
however, they are addressing
women: telling them to starve
themselves---not implicitly, explic-
itly.In Trinidad, you walk past
posters with half-naked women
ten times a day, advertising irrel-
evant things like beer.
But in this case, the message is
Protein World is the brand and
they re advertising weight-loss
products, or "meal replacements."
If it was me they were targeting
they d have lost me at "meal
replacement" unless they were
planning on replacing my meal
with another meal. But impres-
sionable people will see this self-
starving as a good idea.
"Substituting two daily meals
of an energy restricted diet with
a meal replacement contributes to
weight loss" reads the small print.
They want dieting women to not
eat two meals a day and take pills
instead. The reward? You ll look
like the strangely metallic, gaunt,
doll-like woman on the poster.
The difference between England
and Trinidad is that, women in
Trinidad don t want to look like
that; women in England do. And
in London right now, where
anorexia is visibly on the increase,
it s a dangerous, unhealthy thing
What does this say about our
two societies? Are Trinidadian
women impervious to what the
media wants them to aspire to?
Are they more empowered and
confident? Or do they conform to
a different set of norms, defined
by the tastes of men?
Men in Trinidad (to generalise
hugely) like big bums, big boobs,
bellies and thick thighs. Men in
England (advertisers assume) don t.
The reality is quite different---dif-
ferent men like different female
body types, and that s true anywhere
in the world.
Besides, there is a fallacy at play in
the whole premise that women s moti-
vations to achieve a certain body shape
or size are driven by men. Women are
driven by competition to be the
thinnest, or simply to be happy with
themselves when they look in the mir-
ror. Attributing this competition as a
product of "patriarchal society" is disin-
genuous since men, to a great extent,
are only really made aware of the dif-
ferences in women s appearances
through being socialised to notice
them---not by other men, but by media
obsessions with topics like "unrealistic
And if you think these media ideas
are generated by men---you re wrong.
Adverts that use sexy models aren t
Companies want to shift products
so why would they use "normal" look-
ing models if the idea is to make people
identify their brand with glamour? Peo-
ple seem perfectly okay to buy into the
materialistic world we live in, so why
shouldn t advertisers exploit that?
If enough people rejected the whole
notion of advertising and avoided buy-
ing global brands and instead consumed
local, ethically marketed products, then
the multinationals wouldn t have bil-
lions of dollars to spend on awful,
The beach body ads are sexist not
because men are forcing women to look
a certain way but because there is no
male equivalent of the ad. In the inter-
ests of consumer equality (an important
brand asset in a competitive commercial
environment) Protein World should
have done a 50:50 male:female cam-
They didn t because they know
British men wouldn t respond to it with
any kind of aspiration or envy. They
would think the chiselled male model
was showing off and move on with
Does this mean women in general
are more susceptible to advertising? As
a former advertising researcher I should
probably know the answer to that ques-
tion. But all I have is my anecdotal evi-
dence---yes they are when the ad con-
cerns traditional gendered notions of
femininity. Women care more about
being women than men care about
being men, basically.
In the UK now, dieting is as popular
as ever. The 5:2 diet means eating what
you like five days a week then starving
yourself for two. Aloe Vera diets mean
you live exclusively off aloe vera for
Until British women develop the abil-
ity to ignore marketing strategies like
they do in Trinidad these fads will con-
tinue and companies will make money
out of these insecurities. Feminist
groups have reacted furiously, defacing
the posters, and I support that. But the
planned public protest in London this
weekend will only benefit the brand by
giving it publicity.
An acquaintance from Trinidad told
me, "I don t have a body like that and
I consider myself bikini-ready 365 days.
This ad doesn t bother me."
That s what men think whenever we
see footballers or boy bands showing
off their six-packs abs. If you want that
look: go for it. If you don t: that s fine
too, but don t live your life according
to posters and don t ever starve yourself
to achieve it.
Beach body ready?
If enough people
rejected the whole
global brands and
billions of dollars to
spend on awful,
Until British women develop the ability to ignore
marketing strategies like they do in Trinidad these
fads will continue and companies will make money
out of these insecurities. Feminist groups have
reacted furiously, defacing the posters, and I
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