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14 Jun, 2016 13:30

Feminism or Islam? Sadiq Khan’s ban on ‘body shaming’ ads gets mixed reaction

Feminism or Islam? Sadiq Khan’s ban on ‘body shaming’ ads gets mixed reaction

London Mayor Sadiq Khan won the praise of gender equality groups by announcing a ban on “body-shaming” ads on the London Underground. But some social media users argue he’s motivated by his Islamic faith rather than feminism.

The ban stems largely from a backlash against a controversial advertisement released by fitness brand Protein World last year, picturing a slender blonde woman in a bikini with the caption: “Are you beach body ready?”

Seen by many as objectifying women and promoting an “ideal” body image that women must conform to, the advert caused an outcry when it appeared on hoardings around London’s transport network.

Announcing the move, Transport for London (TfL) Commercial Development Director Graeme Craig said: “Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment.”

Earlier this year, Protein World released another controversial promotional piece, again featuring objectified women and body-shaming captions. Feminists have routinely taken the brand to task on social media, leading to some shocking examples of PR going wrong.

“Why make your insecurities our problem,” was one Protein World response to a woman who criticized body-shaming.

When called out for its inappropriate responses on Twitter, Protein World continued to make matters worse by taking a dig at feminists. 

It comes as little surprise then that feminists have welcomed the ban, putting an end to public body shaming by such brands.

Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker, who has long supported a ban, praised the new London mayor.

“Sadiq Khan appears to be taking steps towards keeping to his promise to be a feminist Mayor for London,” she told RT.

However, Self-Esteem Team, a UK based group promoting body confidence, told RT that a ban is not the only solution.

“Critical thinking is often greater than bans. However, we support Sadiq Khan, as manipulative ads are not freedom of speech but [rather] a harmful agenda,” the group said.  

Praising Khan’s decision, Self-Esteem Team’s Grace Barrett said: “Someone in power has acknowledged that these images have an impact on our body confidence.”

“Sadiq Khan has given us the opportunity; we have to go and seek out these images rather than have them thrust upon us.”

While women’s groups celebrated Khan’s perceived feminist credentials, others have taken to social media to claim the London Mayor’s Islamic faith is a more likely motive for censoring the scantily clad models.

As the first Muslim mayor of a major western city, a minority of Twitter users speculate his decision was made “as per Sharia law,” accusing Khan of “using feminist talking points to enact Sharia policy” and “turning London into a Muslim city.”