Body Shaming Advertising Campaigns: Is this Really the Future of Women's Fitness?

Aug 22, 2016 • By • 80 Views

Why Women both in and Outside of the Fitness Industry are Outraged at one Franchises Most Recent Attempt to Sell Memberships.

As a woman working for over 10 years in the fitness industry, I am all too familiar with how much emphasis is placed on how us ladies present ourselves. Sadly, more often than not, when it comes to marketing campaigns especially, it is regularly depicted as being far more important to be ‘bikini ready’ than to be fit, strong and healthy. Furthermore, as a Western woman living in the Middle East, hearing or seeing something that would be completely outrageous to a westerner is usually regarded as nothing to even bat an eyelid at here.

However, one Middle Eastern marketing campaign that has sparked international outrage throughout the internet is that of Gold’s Gym sub-franchise, Gold’s Gym Dreamland located in Cairo, Egypt. A few days ago, the company launched an advertisement on their Facebook page hosting a picture of a pear and the words “This is no shape for a girl”.

The ad created quite a controversial reaction, with masses calling it shameful and comparing it to similar sexist campaigns of the 1970s. However, an equally large number of people suggested too many of us are simply over sensitive.

So is this out right, intolerable body shaming? Or are we just over sensitive in this day and age to something that in another culture is completely acceptable?

We have all seen those TV shows, the ones that show the funny ads from across the world. Often you sit, bewildered at how genuinely bizarre a TV campaign seems to you in your country and culture. I remember when I lived in India, sitting in my apartment, lathered in an abundance of self tanning products and seeing an advert for whitening cream for the first time. I was completely blown away! Moreover, I was completely confused as to why anyone would ever want to make themselves paler when it would be my dream to be naturally bronzed day after day.

Therefore, it is apparent that location and culture have a massive impact on what is deemed acceptable in a marketing stratergy. However, is that the case when it comes to large franchises in this online era? Although individual location obviously need to be mindful of their target audience, with today’s social media pretty much anything can be accessed by anyone with the click of a mouse.

A number of female figures in the public eye have turned to social media to voice their disgust at the online advertisement, one of whom being NLA for Her and Bodybuilding.com Athlete and general inspirational fitness figure Jessie Hilgenberg, who relayed her thoughts to Gold’s Gym via Facebook stating “Your’e dead to me Gold’s Gym. I hope I have a bucket of BEAUTIFUL pears to throw at your window next time I drive by.”

Female Public Figures use Social Media to Display their Disgust

Two other lovely ladies who have shown their distaste are Actress Abigail Breslin and recording artist Lily Lane, both of whom also slated Gold’s Gym via social media. Breslin used her Instagram account in order to make her opinion on the matter heard, while Lily Lane took to Twitter to display her disgust.

After such an abundance of anger across the web, Gold’s Gym wasted no time in releasing an official statement apologising for the bad judgement of their Egyptian colleagues stating they we “shocked and appalled” by what had happened. Reiterating that their aim as a company is “helping people feel empowered by fitness”

A photo posted by Gold's Gym (@goldsgym) on

Gold’s Gym Publicly Apologises via Social Media

But as so many people tell us that we are simply being over sensitive, is that truly the case? Should we just take everything with a pinch of salt before getting our noses out of joint?

I appreciate that the terms ‘pear’ and ‘apple’ are used regularly to describe the female form by our fashion gurus and even medical professionals. I’ve been looking at jeans before that were labelled “perfect for pear shapes” or “all good for apple shapes”. But the difference is that is a positive message in which those shapes of ladies are celebrated and given the tools to enhance their assets in order to look and feel great.

It is also worth mentioning that those jeans also came in size 6! Even the slimmest, fittest woman can be a pear shape as long as her hips are wider than her shoulders, something that no amount of squatting will alter! That is all down to genetics. Therefore, insinuating that ‘pear shaped’ equals ‘fat’ is not the way the term pear shaped was intended to be used.

I think that probably the aspect that upset most people with the campaign put out by Gold’s Gym Dreamland is the sexism surrounding it. I mean yes, if we are being literal I do not want to look like that pear, but then again, I doubt my husband would either! If the ad had stated that a pear wasn’t a good shape for anyone to be, it may have been mildly less offensive, but once again all of the emphasis was placed on women and how it is deemed unattractive to look a certain way.

This of course is nothing new in the fitness world; however, it is good to see that there are steps being taken in order to promote change.

Technology is the new best friend for any strong, fitness focused woman. With apps like Nike Training Club, which has been downloaded by more than 19 million women, they offer training programs that are designed specifically for women, by women. These apps, focusing largely on strength building, offer women a female personal trainer in their pocket to be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Therefore it is great to see other large companies like Nike empowering women and helping to build their confidence while making them stronger and healthier. I’m guessing Gold’s Gym Dreamland probably should have taken a leaf out of their book!

In closing, a note to any companies out there looking to run a similar campaign in the future, I will share with you some great advice my mum told me as a kid (that obviously the guy in Cairo didn’t have the benefit of!)

 “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!”

About the Author

Jenny Abouobaia Jenny Abouobaia

Written by: Jenny Abouobaia Qualified personal trainer and fitness instructor from the UK with over 10 years in the professional dance and...