London’s Mayor Banned Ridiculous Body-Shaming Ads From Public Transportation

Last month, London took a positive step by electing its first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan. Now, Khan’s trying to take the city forward again by banning body-shaming ads from public transport. He announced Monday that buses, trains, and the Tube (London’s subway) will no longer carry advertising that “could cause body confidence issues” by promoting unrealistic body images. In an official statement, Khan said he was “extremely concerned about this kind of advertising, which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies.” It’s not every day you see a politician who actually seems to care about how body-shaming and objectification affect women and is ready to take action against it. A lot of political figures pay lip service to women’s equality, but this ban actually tackles the larger culture standing in the way of that equality.

Khan’s decision follows controversy around last year’s infamous Protein World ad asking women if they were “beach body ready.” Numerous women, including a spokesperson for an eating disorder charity, openly challenged the sexism and body-shaming in the ad. Protein World responded by dismissing them with tweets that said, “Why make your insecurities our problem” and “Surely as a feminists [sic] you understand that no one takes you seriously?” Other protesters went directly for the posters, defacing them or adding their own text to reflect what they really thought of Protein World’s “beach body.”

Although the situation devolved to an unfortunate extent, it did reveal that people are sick of body-shaming in commercial advertising. Khan’s ban is therefore a timely response to a growing recognition of ads that shame women who aren’t a particular body type rather than an out-of-nowhere imposition.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Islamophobes have hit out against Khan’s decision on the basis of his religious identity. One Twitter user claimed that this was the start of Khan establishing “sharia policy” by “pushing white men out of jobs [and] hiring muslims.” Combining Islamophobia with some good old-fashioned sexism, another man angrily pounding on his keyboard agreed that Khan’s ban on “ads that show beautiful female bodies” (because women’s bodies only exist to be looked at) was “sharia law” and suggested the Muslim mayor would ban pork next. First one piece of meat, then the other, huh?

Don’t worry, Islamophobic sexists of London: you still have the internet, and advertising everywhere outside of the London transport network to ogle. Mayor Khan is not going to take all the pictures of sexy ladies away, so you can keep on objectifying to your heart’s content.

In addition to chilling the fuck out, those sexist idiots should take note of Khan’s wording. He said “particularly women,” not “only women,” meaning that he’s concerned about ads that body-shame men as well. So, presumably, no more ads implying that guys need 18-pack abs, zero body fat, completely hairless torsos, and huge penises to be considered acceptable. Doesn’t that sound like a relief?

Still, women are the most targeted demographic when it comes to body-shaming ads, which is probably another reason for the backlash against the ban. How dare women express their own opinions? Next thing you know they’ll be wanting the vote. (And I bet a lot of the men against the ban are the type who respond to any claim of misogyny with “MEN ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST TOO!”)

Being faced with giant images of unrealistic body expectations every time you set foot outside your door is much worse than not being able to look at images of sexy people on the side of a bus and knowing that the world wants you to accomplish the impossible by looking like an airbrushed, photoshopped model trumps not seeing bikini shots while waiting for your train to work. The “sharia law” fear-mongers need to follow their own example and do what they wish we’d do: Deal. With. It.