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Body-shaming advertisements ban


body-shaming advertisements, TfL, Sadiq Khan, banOne step to less of the ‘kind of advertising which can demean people’.

Earlier this month, the newly appointed Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a victory for commuters by announcing a ban on body-shaming advertisements from the underground and bus networks in the capital.

Speaking of his decision, Khan said: “As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end.

“Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this”.

The ban comes after a Protein World advertisement for its weight-loss products, which featured a slim bikini-clad woman and the question ‘Are you beach body ready?’, sparked outrage last summer and was widely protested against, with more than 70,000 people signing a petition asking for the posters to be removed.

The impact of such advertisements shouldn’t be underestimated. We live in a culture in which a huge emphasis is placed on physical appearance and it has become something of an obsession and can be very harmful, making us judgemental of ourselves or others.

Body image and self-confidence issues, which can lead to disordered eating and exercise habits and have a negative impact on people’s mental health, are a very real and dangerous problem, and today’s advertising industry and media contribute hugely to encouraging it.

And, although it affects both men and women, women tend to be targeted and thus affected by it more.

A report commissioned by the eating disorders charity Beat in February 2015 estimated that more than 725,000 people in the UK were affected by an eating disorder, and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimated that around 89 per cent of those affected by an eating disorder are female.

Perhaps most concerning of all is the steady increase in the numbers suffering from eating disorders over the last ten years.

Beat’s report found that since 2005, the number of inpatient hospital admissions for eating disorders has risen by 34 per cent – approximately 7 per cent each year.

Obviously, there is no direct link between advertisements such as the now infamous Protein World one and eating disorders, but the harmful effects cannot be ignored or denied.

Women were already bombarded with the pressure to conform to conventional beauty standards from every angle on a daily basis, before the rise of social media made it worse.

Speaking as a young woman myself, I know how suffocating and distressing this pressure can be, and the last thing people need is huge advertisements making them feel bad about themselves on the way to and from work.

As Graeme Craig, the Commercial Development Director of Transport for London (TfL) , said, advertising on transport is “unlike TV, online and print media”.

“Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement upsets or offends them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment”.

Khan’s decision has sent a powerful message to the media and the advertising industry and has been met with widespread support. It is reassuring to see a male figure of authority listening to women and recognising these advertisements as a problem with potentially harmful effects.

It is also great to see a policy like this being implemented less than two months after he was elected and with the support of Transport for London.

While it by no means marks the end of the body shaming culture we currently live in, it can only be described as a bold and positive step in the right direction.

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