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Girls & Women

London mayor bans body-shaming adverts on public transport

Adverts that “demean people, particularly women” will be banned from London’s public transport networks, just one year on from the controversy around Protein World’s “Are you beach body ready?” posters. 

Introducing Transport for London’s (TfL) new advertising policy, the new London mayor Sadiq Khan is taking a strong stand against marketing that pressurises people, especially women and young girls, to conform to rigid and unhealthy physical standards. 

In an interview with the Evening Standard , he said: “As the father of two teenage girls, 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.

“Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this.”  

While the change is not a direct response to Protein World’s notorious advertising campaign,  the weight-loss company’s ‘beach body ready’ posters would now fall under the ban. 

Promoting a meal replacement supplement to ‘help’ women make their bodies acceptable for a trip to the beach, the posters triggered a widespread backlash.

A change.org petition to ban the adverts gained over 70,000 signatures and the posters triggered a similar public outcry in New York.

The impact of advertising on beauty standards on both men and women is very real - affecting both physical and mental health. According to Girl Guiding UK, 42% of girls and young women feel that the most negative part of being female is the pressure to look attractive. In 2015, at least 725,000 people in the UK were affected by an eating disorder - 11% of these were male. 

While some see Transport for London’s decision as overly paternalistic, many welcome the move as a step towards a healthier culture around beauty and body image. A change in advertising policy won’t solve the problem overnight, but it’s a powerful sign that the London mayor takes the impact of body-shaming seriously - just in time for summer.