Though body shaming is just one of the many problems women must endure, women are judged for their dress, complexion, and body types on a daily basis. A shocking billboard put up by Osmo Fitness, a gym in Colombo, Sri Lanka, featured a large, rusty barrel next to a caption that read, “This is no shape for a woman.” Outrage, then action, soon followed.
Some began a hashtag campaign entitled #BoycottOsmo on Twitter, while others tagged the organization on Facebook, asking them to take down the billboard and apologize. However, the gym did not respond, and a post featuring the images used in the billboard stayed pinned to the top of their Facebook page.
“The ad was nothing very different from the typical objectification and sexist usage of women by the ad industry, which has been selling anything from cars to perfume by sexualising women and their bodies,” said Marisa de Silva, an activist leading the social media campaigns. “But this ad also attempted to body shame by dictating to women the ideal shape they should resemble, almost as though it is the sole basis of their worth.”
Frustrated by the lack of action from Osmo, a group of Sri Lankan women who had been actively trying to remove the billboard took matters into their own hands. First, they called Osmo’s marketing manager to complain. The manager responded that the image hadn’t been “approved” by the company, but he didn’t offer to take it down either.
Next, the women contacted Harsha de Silva, the deputy minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, who oversees the territory where the billboard resided. He responded with a tweet: “I asked the Colombo MC Commissioner to remove this unapproved offensive hoarding.”
The banner was finally taken down by Osmo, though it is unknown if it was destroyed or moved elsewhere. While it was being removed, the Colombo Municipal Council motioned to replace it with a positive message.
The council permitted the women who were active in fighting the campaign to display an anti-sexism notice in its place for two days. The new sign read “No more space for sexism” in Sri Lanka’s three primary languages: Sinhala, Tamil, and English. However, despite the cheer to take down the billboard and substitute it with the new banner fighting body shaming, men on social media warned that this sort of transfer set a “dangerous precedent” towards loose speech.
Meanwhile, Osmo also responded with an official statement on the campaign, saying that it had “withdrawn” the advertisement, which was not intended to “degrade, offend, insult or undermine any one person or women in general.” Osmo further explained that the ad had been inspired by a “disturbing” WHO report that said there were higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity among Sri Lankan women than men.
“No more space for sexism” is right, and many women should feel inspired to follow in the footsteps of the women who worked hard to get the billboard removed.
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