My primary resource is an advert in the London tube that was banned in April 2015. It shows a conventionally attractive woman wearing a bright yellow bikini. Her body type is very toned, athletic, slender yet curvy. She has fair skin and hair, full lips, a small nose and defined cheekbones. This in modern society is considered to be beautiful and it is a standard women are often held up to. Next to her the ad says ‘Are you beach body ready?’. It is extremely eye catching due to the bright yellow bikini and background. The viewer of this ad, targeted at teenage and adult women, will look at it and compare themselves to this very white caucasian and limited vision of beauty.
According to Michael Foucault, ‘subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity’ (1966). Essentially, women that come across this advert cannot ignore it because of its’ loud and obnoxious appearance. This ad is designed so the viewer will be immediately drawn to it, see the model in the bikini first, then the tag line and in third place the actual product, namely ‘the weight loss collection’ by Protein World. The simple question ‘Are you beach body ready?’ suggests that the woman looking at this probably isn’t and she needs to lose weight as a result of that. This isn’t really an advert about going to the beach, this is an excuse to continuously demonise and persecute women’s bodies for having fat and cellulite in their natural state. This is done because the industry relies on women feeling bad about their bodies to make money. The viewer of this ad is however also capable of rupturing the male, patriarchal gaze and recognising this ad as being unrealistic and unattainable. According to Bell Hooks this is called the Oppositional Gaze (1999). The ad has indeed been taken down because of the controversy it caused and because people kept subverting it by writing messages on it or destroying it.
The underlying problem is that the Oppositional Gaze is mainly female. Many men will walk past adverts like this every day and see no problem in them because they are not being targeted, and the objectified woman in the picture is also there for their ‘enjoyment’. Women that have spoken up against this ad have received abuse from the company and its CEO Arjun Seth. BBC reporter Juliette Burton was one of the many people to sign the petition to remove the ad, and she received tweets from the company saying she shouldn’t make her own insecurities their problem, and accusing her of being unbalanced and confused due to her mental illness and eating disorder (2015). The company went on to tweet ‘We are a nation of sympathisers for fatties #doesnthelpanyone’. This is a classic example of everyday sexism in an industry where men take control of the way women see themselves.
The Order Of Things (Michael Foucault, 1966)
The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators (Bell Hooks, 1999)
Burton, J. (2015) Viewpoint: My twitter battle with the people behind the beach body ad. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-32497580 (Accessed: 18/10/16)