Saturday, 22 August 2009


Crossposted at my personal blog.

On my way to work, I cycle past a gym called Greens. It's a Health and Fitness Club, in fact, or perhaps even more of a lifestyle centre, complete with "stylish, fully licensed bar and brasserie" and "luxurious health and beauty salon".

Outside the car park, on the corner of a main road where hundreds of people must see them every day, Greens have two large advertisements. The posters, which are changed regularly, used to be the size of the ones in bus stops. They recently replaced the old boards with two enormous ones, nearly ten feet tall and each completely covered with a new ad.

The images below are representative of the Greens advertising style. The new ad in question featured the bum of a woman in bright pink shorts, and if I remember correctly, the model was actually pointing her finger directly at her rump. The caption read, "Does my bum look big in this?"

These ads present the female body - usually divested of its head or any other indication that it belongs to an individual person - in a purely passive, sexual way. Even the two women who seem to have been exercising, one with a Swiss ball and the other with boxing gloves, are posed to be coy, inviting, sexually receptive. This is the only image of female beauty that is possible in the Greens advert. Additionally, this is a beauty only attainable by women who have the means to buy a membership to this expensive and luxurious health club and the leisure time to spend many hours working out there.

Greens offer many classes (in aerobics and so on) and talk about health benefits on their website. I'm sure you could get fit there, but according to their advertising the primary reason for women to join is to conform to this sexualised, exclusive and unrealistic notion of beauty. For the men? Either they don't need to be advertised to, or Greens is counting on the timeworn idea that a few shots of tits and ass will lead them wherever the advertiser wants.

I say, "if I remember correctly," because I came back past Greens yesterday to find that the posters had been pulled down and the graffiti above sprayed on one of the boards: Every body is beautiful.

I was overjoyed to see this - activism for body acceptance and against this unrealistic beauty standard, in my very own neighbourhood. I have been annoyed with these ads - which are put up in several other places around the area too - since I started noticing them, almost as much for the bad puns they sport as for their representation of female beauty (they never feature men). I'd never really moved on from annoyance to anger or determination to act, though. I think part of my pleasure in seeing this graffiti is because it's a reminder that kicking against these images, which dominate our public spaces without our consent, is possible and has an effect.

I wonder who wrote this? I'd like to meet them.


  1. How wonderful! Exercise isn't a bad idea for overall health, but why isn't overall health enough for some people? Why does it have to be about looking a certain way too? All that should matter is health, which has no average body weight or appearance.