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Feminists Start Campaign Against ‘Beach Body’ Advertisements

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

An advertisement campaign for summer-ready beach bodies in the London Underground has outraged feminists, prompting a viral petition, vandalism and alleged bomb threats.

The movement against Protein World’s “Are you beach body ready?” advertisements began with an online petition. The petition argues that the advertisement campaign is “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic* body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.”

The petition includes the caveat that the body of the model displayed in the advertisement isn’t achievable “for the majority of people,” although “everyone has an individual body shape.”

“Perhaps not everyone’s priority is having a ‘beach body’ (by the way, what is that?),” the petition asks, “and making somebody feel guilty for not prioritising it by questioning their personal choices is a step too far.”

The petition has 59,812 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

As a result of the uproar, the advertisements have been vandalized.

Richard Staveley, the head of marketing for Protein World, called the reaction to the advertisements “fantastic” publicity, in an interview with Sky News.

While the publicity has been helping the company financially, Staveley told ITV Protein World has received “physical, violent threats” as a result of the advertisement campaign. He said there was even a bomb threat placed against the main office. Staveley said police are investigating the matter, so he is unable to elaborate further.

The model behind the advertisement, Renee Somerfield, who personifies the “unrealistic body image,” has also responded to the controversy.

On Somerfield’s Twitter, she has favorited and retweeted posts that have been supportive of the campaign. In an interview with the Huffington Post UK, Somerfield said, “I am a real person behind the image. I work very hard and live a healthy and active lifestyle which is why Protein World chose me for their campaign. I couldn’t work every day as a full time model by starving myself, dieting or not looking after my body. Nourish your body, be kind to it and it will love you right back, no matter your size.”

“Protein World’s intention is to motivate and inspire their consumers to be the best, healthiest and fittest version of themselves, not to advertise that you have to look a particular way to be ‘beach body ready,” Somerfield added.

The campaign’s backlash has led over 200 complaints against Protein World’s advertisement being placed with the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency. The ASA can compel advertisers to change, or remove, advertisements.

According to Metro, the Transport for London stated the advertisements would be taken down Wednesday, regardless of the complaints, as the advertising period is over.

The Transport for London also took a stand against the graffiti on the ads.

In the future, the Transport for London will take measures to prevent vandalism. The Transport for London will also seek the advise of the ASA and the The Committee of Advertising Practice if a similar advertisement is submitted at a later date.

A “taking back the beach” protest is scheduled to take place on Saturday in Hyde Park. So far, 761 individuals have confirmed on Facebook that they will attend the event.

The creators of the event wrote, “This was never about suggesting that people shouldn’t try to get fit if they want to. If having rippling abs is your thing, more power to you. I bet you rock them. But I’m so tired of it being an expectation. The idea that your body should be covered up and hidden away if it doesn’t meet these bizarrely specific requirements. … I’m over it, you guys. And judging by the response we’ve gotten on Twitter, it looks like you are too.”