United Kingdom

Note to London Mayor Sadiq Khan: Please stop 'helping' women with your subway ad ban

“Please Stop Helping Us.” That’s the subtitle of a book by an acquaintance of mine named Jason Riley, an African-American who argues that liberal policies that are supposed to help black people are actually making things worse. And “please stop helping us” is exactly what I thought when I heard about London mayor Sadiq Khan’s ban on advertising that “demeans people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies.”

“Nobody should feel pressurized [sic], “ said Khan in a statement, “into having unrealistic expectations while they travel on the tube or bus surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this.”

Londoners don’t know yet exactly how this will play out.  So far this is as specific as Khan gets. This bannable ads “standard,”  if you can even call it that, is vague and completely subjective. What kind of photo is “demeaning”?  What kind makes someone “ashamed of her body”? What creates “an unrealistic expectation about one’s body?”

But If Khan proceeds with the London zeitgeist vis a vis subway advertising the standards could be very restrictive indeed.  There was a brouhaha last year over an ad for weight loss system which featured a photo of a woman with a truly impressive body in a bikini doing nothing more than staring at the camera with the slogan “Are You Beach Body Ready?” And it was eventually banned in the UK, as the Guardian newspaper puts it, over body confidence and health concerns.” Apparently the gorgeous woman contributed to body shaming.

Khan says he acts “as the father of two teenage girls” who is “extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people.”

Ok, so he loves his daughters and wants to protect them. That’s what a father should do. If more fathers were more protective of their teenage daughters (and yes I believe it’s quite appropriate for a father to be much more protective of his daughters than his sons) America would be in better shape today.

Khan is very new to his job, but I hope he realizes that being a father and being a mayor are different. He can’t just transpose his knee-jerk emotional responses on a whole people, on an economic system, just because he feels “extremely concerned.”

And this edict is ridiculous on so many levels. First of all, advertising is always aspirational. It’s designed to make you feel uneasy about what you have because that’s the only way you’ll want something new. If I don’t feel just quite up to snuff with my current car, why should I start lusting after a shiny, new one?

Oh, I can hear the government policy hacks say, but this is about bodies, this is about women’s feelings, a young girl could see one of these “adverts” with the perfect looking babe and be warped for life.  As always, policies around women go in a separate category.

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