What London mayor really means when he announces an end to ‘body shaming’ in public

What London mayor really means when he announces an end to ‘body shaming’ in public

Last week, London’s mayor announced that advertisements that “body shame” women would no longer be permitted on public buses and subways. “As the father of two teenage girls,” he said according to the Evening Standard, “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.”

The mayor’s remarks likely conjure up visions of the “before” photo in a before-and-after ad that shows a plump woman crammed into — and spilling out of — a bikini many sizes too small. But that’s not the example of “body shaming” hizzoner had in mind. It’s “after” pictures like this, which until recently adored “Tube” stations.

Ad London tubes

If you’re confused, it may help to know that the mayor, Sadiq Khan, is a Muslim — London’s first.

Understand: The mayor is not alone in his objections to ads like this. His decision was shaped in part by a protest in Hyde Park and a petition on Change.org that garnered more than 70,000 signatures asking that the ads come down.

Yet, his concern about “advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies” seems curious in response to the above photo, which shows a body no woman would be ashamed of. In fact, the vast majority would give their eye teeth to look that way.

It appears that Khan, a practicing Sunni Muslim who regularly attends services at the mosque in his hometown, is applying the Islamic standard to the notion of “body shaming” — which is showing any part of the body at all. The shaming is not what the women feel. It’s what Khan and his fellow Muslims think they should feel for appearing so immodestly clad.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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