Yes, You Are Beach Ready.

A few months ago I was on the London tube and my eyes glanced across the above ad. It’s hard not to. The Protein World poster is made up of only three colors: bright yellow, and a black and white photo of an extremely thin and curvy model in a bathing suit of the same canary color. The black font then asks you a simple question: Are you beach body ready?

I was immediately shocked by its content, not only because it body shamed women into feeling guilty for not having a body fit to belong on a beach (which is ludicrous, if you have a body, your body can go anywhere it freaking wants) but also because of what its program advocates for: starvation.

When I got home, I immediately googled the ad to see if anything had been written about it. Indeed, I was not let down. Huge backlash had erupted on Twitter with photos emerging of women standing in front of the ad with their middle finger, and a change.org petition with more than 70,000 signatures had been signed calling for the advertisment’s removal. The hashtags  #EverybodysReady and #EachBodysReady also spread through social media as women showed off their bodies in every shape and form, letting the world know they were “beach ready” no matter what. A week later, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ads and they were removed from tube stations.

It’s wonderful that so many activists fought to get this ridiculously offensive ad taken down, but the company has regaled in its controversy, and sales have since risen; So much so, that today, while I was waiting for subway in  New York, the same ad came to meet me as the doors opened. I fumed. Apparently, there is a huge billboard in Times Square as well.

Here is what you need to know:

When individuals wrote to Protein World on twitter and social media, the company responded in the most unprofessional and vitriolic ways.

The model in the ad, Renee Summerfield, turned the backlash around to make it sound as though they were body-shaming her. Many applauded her courage and voice.

Here’s what she gets wrong: No one is saying she isn’t beautiful or that her body is not worth our praise and envy. However, the ad is saying that her body is the only type of body one should praise and desire and envy, and the only type of body that one should possess in order to put on a bikini and hit the beach. We are not shaming her body, we are shaming the message. We are not shaming her curves and thinness, we are shaming the company’s pointed message that her body is the only one we should covet, and that her curves and thinness is what all women should aspire to have.

Summerfield said that she works hard for her body, and that as a result the criticism is uncalled for. But here’s where she gets it wrong again:

Her job is to be skinny, but it’s not ours. She has time to do yoga, intense workout sessions, diets, etc, but we do not. Yes, being healthy is important, but lollygagging on beaches while starving ourselves by substituting two meals with a protein pill and shake, is not. It’s the opposite of healthy. And here’s where I’ve been scratching my head because I see no mention of it: How is their meal substitution plan legal, and how is the ad but not the program itself only being scrutinized? Protein World wants you to eat ONE MEAL per day that’s between 400-500 calories, and then replace the two other meals with a meal replacement shake. Of course you’re going to lose weight, you’re starving yourself!

While millions and millions of ads use the same body-shaming technique on women, Protein World makes no qualms about it. In fact, here’s what their marketing head, Richard Stavely, recently told Breitbart London while talking about the new NY ads:

"It's a big middle finger to everybody who bothered to sign that stupid petition in the U.K. It’s a fat F-U to them all. You could say that the London protesters helped pay for the New York campaign”

So, get your sharpies out. Deface the ads you see on the subway. Their sales might benefit from it in the short-run, but we’ll be protecting young girls who are so extremely vulnerable to these messages: The 12 year old girl who's starting to develop into her teenage body, the 21 year old who's battled an eating-disorder, etc... Remind them, and yourself, that anyone is beach ready. That no matter how skinny, how fat, how square, how round, how flat or full chested you are, no matter the presence or absence of a thigh gap, or of the defined abs, that the beach is just another landscape where you’re welcome: dig your footstep deep in the sand. Feel the sun burn between your toes. Jump in the ocean. Float. Let the waves touch your every curve. Is this not where you belong?