Saturday 24 March 2018

'They’ll take the fat ones first' – Irish gym’s 'fat-shaming and humiliating' ad causes controversy

(stock image)
(stock image)
An ad published by Energie Fitness has been criticised by a body-positive activist;
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

An advertisement published by an Irish gym has been labelled de-humanising and humiliating by a body-positive activist, who said the fitness group publicly shamed fat people in a social media marketing campaign.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Liveline, blogger Sarah Tyrrell said an ad published by Énergie Fitness Ireland mocked fat people and was designed to cause offense.

The controversial ad included a cartoon of aliens coming to earth and read: "They're coming and when they arrive they'll take the fat ones first. Be a super hero, invest in a fitness franchise."

Speaking on the programme Tyrrell said: "It’s saying it’s okay to mock and humiliate fat people in a public forum. It’s okay for companies and people in power to encourage of that kind of mockery. It’s saying that fat people don’t deserve basic respect and they can be the butt of a public joke. It’s not okay. It’s very hurtful."

Sarah opened up about her own battle with weight and bullying on the programme which she said contributed to periods of poor mental health in the past. The body-positive blogger said Energie's advertisement reiterated what she feels is society's idea that 'fat' is the worst thing a person can be.

"There’s absolutely no way to convince me that anybody involved in this ad and other ads like it ever believes that this might not cause offense. It’s designed to cause offense, it’s not designed to empower people, it's designed to frighten people. That’s what it is. In our society fat is the worst thing you can be.

"I feel really frustrated and I feel like I’ve had enough of seeing messages put out there by companies that almost humiliate and dehumanise me and people like me. I don’t understand why this still happens."

Defending the advertisement,  David Miller, Operations Director of Énergie Fitness Ireland, said the advertisement was tongue in cheek and said the campaign did not intend to upset or offend.

"The intention was never to offend anybody. We’ve used this ad in a number of countries to positive effect really. The mantra of our company is about empowering people to transform their lives and we stand by that as we use our marketing collateral and create images and words around what it is that we do.

"It’s a tongue in cheek look I guess to attract people into the fitness form."

"I’d like to apologise by any offense that’s been taken by the ad. We wanted to bring some humour into the whole aspect of advertising fitness clubs and the industry in general."

Tyrrell, who runs her own body-positive blog, said the ad wouldn't have been accepted if it suggested people of another race would be abducted by aliens "first".

"If that ad said we were going to take the black ones first, or the gay ones first, or the Muslim ones, there would be uproar and rightly so. I don’t understand why anyone still believes it’s okay to publicly fat shame people. I don’t understand it."

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