Well… this past week has been a little strange. If you’ve been following me on twitter or Facebook then you’ve probably seen a lot of this already, but I thought it would be a good idea to give you my version of events, and what I think about everything that’s happened since…
It started nearly two weeks ago, when I was on my way home from a hospital appointment (in everything that’s followed, I never mentioned my various health problems, as frankly, that has nothing to do with what happened. However, it does lend some context to how this all started for me). I was sitting opposite the Beach Body Ready advert, and to be honest, feeling a little bit crap about myself. The poster asks, provocatively, ‘Are you beach body ready?’ The answer the company no doubt wants is “no! I look crap! Quick, lets buy these dietary supplements to fix that!!!” My reaction was not that. The ad made me miserable. Having Postural Tachycardia Syndrome severely limits the amount of exercise I can do, and for me, causes excessive levels of fatigue. Coming to terms with this life-changing, chronic and incurable illness has not been easy. And I sat across from this ad for nearly an hour on the Northern line, on my way home to Edgware, feeling slowly more angry and wretched.
So when the train pulled in, once everyone had left the carriage, I went up to the advert and wrote “none of your effing business” in the yellow space provided:
I felt pretty good about what I had done. And to be honest, didn’t think much more of it after that!
I didn’t go on the tube for a few days, but when I did, I found myself sitting opposite the poster once more, and by this time, I felt pretty confident in what I was doing. A few people had shared the last photo, and I’d spoken to a lot of people about the ad. We all agreed that it was offensive and made us angry. So I did this:
This picture got picked up by the Vagenda people on twitter and made it into a Buzzfeed article. I became Buzzfeed famous!!! You can read the article HERE.
From this article, a producer from the Stephen Nolan show on BBC 5 Live got in touch and asked me to appear on the late night programme, discussing the advert with the head marketing honcho and guy behind the twitter account. I decided to prepare for this interview by consuming a rather large portion of chips:
You can listen to the debate here:
Nothing much happened for the rest of the weekend, but then on Monday, IT ALL KICKED OFF!!!
Tweets happened, threats happened, and pretty much all of Monday was spent watching my timeline tick over with repeated demands for me to be arrested, followed by Protein World themselves referring to me as a “criminal” and an “extemist” and later, a “terrorist”.
When one anonymous tweeter tried to shame me because I decided to put “criminal extremist” in my twitter profile description, I pointed out that just because someone calls me a unicorn, it doesn’t mean that I’m a unicorn. And then, so thrilled by my own sense of logic, I added ‘part-time unicorn’ to my twitter profile too.
And then this guy reported me to the police! I’m still waiting for them to come and knock on my door. But let me take this opportunity to say, publicly, that if I am arrested and fined (which is the worst thing that could happen here) then I’d ask for public contributions to pay, and then I’d donate anything and everything leftover to charities that deal principally in eating disorders and body dysmorphic issues. I hope that it does’t come to that, but there we are.
I’d like to say here, that I know that I have broken the law and committed vandalism, but I am proud of what I have done and would do it again in a heartbeat.
And yes I know that Protein World’s profits are substantially up, no doubt helped by my viral efforts. The fact is that I couldn’t care less about this company or how much money they make. All I wanted to do was to stop the next woman sitting across from that advert from feeling miserable. I wanted them to see the advert, and then see my comment, and then maybe, they’d think that they were OK. That’s it. No biggie.
Have I played right into the hands of this company? Maybe. I strongly suspect that they were hoping for this kind of outrage and viral attention, and I know that they’re now laughing all the way to the bank. Look at what they got out of it: mentions on the national news, in national newspapers, and discussions on radio programmes. You can’t buy that kind of publicity! To which I say, again, I don’t care. This company’s profits will go down as well as up. Customers will soon realise that the product is useless an unnecessarily expensive. That has nothing to do with me. What I did, twice, was to potentially make somebody’s day a little brighter, and to reinforce their sense of self and wellbeing.
To the people on twitter who have called me out for ‘fit-shaming’ (I know, I didn’t think it was a thing either!) I would say that never once have I drawn attention to anybody’s figure – mine nor the model’s. Thinking that this is all about being jealous of the way someone looks is wrong. You can feel body-negative whether you are a supermodel or not. Everybody has bad days, and you know what, it has nothing to do with what you look like.
The advert’s intention was to shame women into using their product. To which I have the following to say:
- Shame has never been a conducive way to get fit and lose weight. If you’re feeling bad about yourself, you’re much more likely to buy a bar of chocolate than join a gym. It’s a simple fact.
- The way to make women (or anyone!) get fitter and healthier is to inspire them, to appeal to their intelligence and sense of wellbeing. All carrots, no stick. When you feel good about yourself – no matter what you look like – you will want to look after yourself better.
- How Protein World thinks that their product is the key to health and fitness mystifies me. Eating less and doing more exercise is key – not investing in vitamin pills or other dietary supplements. In fact, vitamin pills and dietary supplements have recently come under fire for possibly increasing risk of cancer and heart disease. You can read about that HERE.
All of you reading this – we all have our flaws. Regardless of whether we are a swim-wear model or not. We are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, and fooled into thinking that the airbrushed images we see are somehow attainable or aspirational. The truth is that many of us could do with an improved lifestyle. I have an illness that severely limits what I can do right now, but I am working on it with doctors and other specialists. But just because I’m not at the best place I can be physically does not mean that I am ashamed of my body. This is how I look. It’s not going to be changing any time soon, much to my annoyance. If I want to go on the beach, all I need to be ready is a swimsuit and sunscreen. There is no magic pill that will make me better, which is what Protein World would have you believe.
I’m OK. And you are too.
The rest of them can deal with it.