If you have been spending time on Facebook in the last couple of days you will have seen people commenting on an article that appeared in The Independent where they reported about the uproar caused by an advertising campaign from a company that sells protein supplements. The advert asks the question “Is your body beach ready?” next to an image of a stunning young model looking fit and healthy (and airbrushed) in a bikini.
As i was reading about the reactions that this advert caused I couldn’t ask myself “WHY?“, why is it that people can find the time and energy to get upset over the picture of a fit person like it was a crime to look good and look after your health? What are they saying about themselves?
And what’s with the two girls posing in a bikini next to the advert? It’s funny because the girl in the black bikini isn’t far off the look of the model and she could easily achieve that with good lighting and a tiny bit of clever photoshopping without changing anything else about her life. The other girl… I am not sure what she is trying to prove… that being out shape is visually attractive? It isn’t. That being out of shape is better than being fit? It isn’t. That you should accept your lot and make the most of it or at least learn to live with it if you can’t change it? I support you wholeheartedly, we are all on the same boat on this. Even the model.
If you are interested in learning more about the science of attractiveness here is a great journal from the Department of Anthropology of the University of Nebraska and if you are interested in the evolutionary approach to this subject here is another great journal from the Department of Psychology of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. If you want to read a great book that explains the different psychology of men and women then read this: Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love by Dr. Paul Dobransky.
In a nutshell, there are certain physical parameters that humans instinctively perceive as attractive in other humans. This is in the reptilian part of our brains, the part that acts purely on sexual instincts before we get to add different layers of meaning and rationalise a subject or event. For women these parameters include their age, BMI, waist to hip ratio, size and shape of ears and nose, symmetry of the breasts and symmetry of the face and body. These are the characteristics that signal our male counterparts how good our genetics are for the purpose of producing offsprings that will be able to survive and carry on contributing to the survival of the species. And that, on an instinctual level, is all that matters: survive, reproduce. This is why both males and females recognise people like the model in the advert as embodying all the physical characteristics to make her attractive to potential mates… in our culture at least: she is perfectly symmetrical (although the airbrush might have something to do with that), her waist to hip ratio is favourable, she looks healthy and she is of a fertile age.
So why the uproar? What’s wrong with being young, fit, healthy and fertile?
Isn’t the deep desire to look more attractive that, ultimately, drives us to join the gym and pay attention to our diets or even go as far as having plastic surgery or gastric band surgery? Of all the clients I have worked with so far NOT ONE ever told me that they wanted to get healthier in hope to be able to get off some or all of their meds. NOT ONE! They all wanted to get a slimmer waist, a flat stomach, toned thighs and arms and feel beautiful again or for the first time. And that’s absolutely fine.
One of my favourite parts of the petition to have the advert removed (really?) is the opening paragraph: “Protein World 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.”
First of all I don’t know where these people have been on holiday but there are many places on Earth where you can see plenty of young ladies that look like the model in the picture. Try Monaco for starters and you’ll see plenty of realistic people like her. In fact, I know a few that still look like that in their mid and late 40s after having a number of children. They were born like that, it’s not their fault. Is it realistic to suggest that you could go from stocky and short limbed to slender and long legged by taking supplements? Of course (sadly) not, but the advert isn’t suggesting that. Second, yes the protein company is leveraging scarcity to suggest their products can solve your body weight issues. It’s basic marketing. However it’s your choice to feel offended or inferior. You are in charge of your feelings not the supplements company.
I read some awesome comebacks from PW to people criticizing their ad campaign but I won’t publish the link because some of the comments that follow are IMHO offensive. But yeah, I am deeply envious of these ladies that have nothing more serious to worry about than pictures of fit people on a poster. 🙂
What’s your take on this?