This weekend, everyone got mad at 'Protein World' for the wrong reasons. And they weren't nearly mad enough.
To be fair, the original reason to be angry at the self-professed 'leaders of the protein revolution' does have a basis. It is regarding this advertising campaign, that splashed out across billboard on the London underground:
The outrage was centered around concerns that such images imply that you are only attractive if your looks conform to the stereotypical size tiny, blond hair, big chested gig. Excessive promotion of this 'look' has serious negative consequences, especially --but not exclusively-- for young girls who do not match this picture. The feeling was that a company with a product allegedly concerned with health, should portray a wider variety of healthy people.
With increasing awareness of the importance of mental health, I agree that 'Protein World' lost their chance to be role models. However, I wouldn't have labelled them any more misogynistic than your average women's fashion magazine. What is more, the responses to their campaign were so fantastic that it turned the posters from potentially hurtful into inspiring:
I read about this in an article on BuzzFeed and was throughly enjoying the turn-around on an otherwise dull and predictable advert. Then I reached the bottom of the article.
From @ProteinWorld on twitter:
'We are a nation of sympathisers for fatties.'
Wait, what now? The 'Protein World' official twitter feed is calling people 'fatties'?!
Oh yes they are! And that isn't even the worst of it.
Unsurprisingly, 'Protein World' were questioned via their twitter account about these posters. Rather than ignoring such comments, apologising (or better still) leaping on this bandwagon and rolling out a fresh set of posters with different body types, they responded with derisive personal attacks.
They told one tweeter, Harriet, to 'grow up' when she questioned the necessity of a particular body shape to use a public beach, told another that no one took feminists seriously, said that insecurities about appearance should not be their problem, claimed they were 'winning' against feminists, that complaints against their model were '#fitshaming' (seriously?! Fit shaming?), and that sexism did not matter so long as business sales remained high.
Apparently, the point about long-term success with such a media strategy did not hit home. Or names such as Beyonce, Emma Watson and Meryl Streep who identify as feminists and might have been heard by a few people. Nor are their replies the only problem with their feed.
At the moment, the main contents of their twitter is re-tweets from supporters of the 'Protein World' and their advertising campaign. There's nothing wrong with this per se, but a company re-tweet is equivalent to complete support of that statement, and most of these were vile, sexist and offensive.
'Shutting up fatties', 'feminazi tears', 'feminists are evil', and 'screw those bitches' are apparently completely in tune with the 'Protein World' ethos.
Even more concerningly, such replies and re-tweets are not from a single poorly trained employee, but from the CEO of 'Protein World' itself. Speaking on the conservative website, 'Breitbart', the 'Protein World' Head of Global Marketing, Richard Staveley, said:
“At the height of the protest, myself and the CEO took over the Twitter feed from our usual girl, and it was hilarious. They were saying, “ooh, somebody’s getting fired tomorrow” – but it was us: the CEO and head of marketing. We had a good chuckle at that."
Hilarious. But even openly offensive and bully remarks are A-OK because they are all 'part of the stretagy' for Richard:
“We’re not a faceless corporation, and 99 per cent of the time it’s great. At times we will be sailing close to the line – and perhaps overstep the mark. But that’s entirely part of the strategy."
I should add, the images included here are only from a brief scan of the 'Protein World' twitter feed; there may be many more examples.
And it's shocking: while the original advertising campaign could be construed as simply out of date and thoughtless, these replies and retweets make it unavoidable that the company is a sexist, bullying piece of shit. This is why we should all be disgusted at 'Protein World' and stop buying their products. Our friend Richard, however, is not worried:
“The campaign absolutely, categorically will not be pulled by Protein World. We have 300,000 happy customers and we will not pander to this a particularly vociferous minority."
So to not be a 'vociferous minority' the people offended have to top 300,000. Any bets on that?