Campaigners are holding a beach-themed demonstration against adverts for a campaign advertising Protein World’s meal replacement collection.
The Protein World adverts featured in London Underground stations show a slim female model posing in a bikini alongside the caption: “Are you beach body ready?”
The question posed by the advert next to the bikini-clad model sparked outcry among feminist campaigners, who accused the brand of sexism and of body-shaming women. Some adverts were defaced with slogans such as “you are lovely as you are” and a Change.org petition calling for the removal of adverts garnered almost 50,000 signatures within just a few days.
The petition claims Protein World “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product”.
Now, the Taking Back the Beach protest is asking men and women of all shapes and sizes to don their swimwear and head down to Hyde Park on Saturday for a celebration of all beach bodies. The two event organisers, Fiona Longmuir and Tara Costello, initially brought attention to the protest against the adverts by posing next to one dressed only in bikinis in an Underground station.
Ms Longmuir told The Independent that she posed with the photograph to provide an alternative to the view of beauty presented in the campaign.
“It was never about claiming that the model isn't beautiful, or belittling people who choose to get in shape or lose weight for summer,” she said.
“I wanted to say: ‘Of course she's gorgeous, but there's more than one way to be gorgeous. You can be gorgeous with my body. You can be gorgeous with your body.' It was about the expectation that women have to meet a minimum standard before being considered acceptable."
On a Facebook group for the protest, the event organisers wrote: “This was never about suggesting that people shouldn’t try to get fit if they want to. If having rippling abs is your thing, more power to you. I bet you rock them. But I’m so tired of it being an expectation.
“The idea that your body should be covered up and hidden away if it doesn’t meet these bizarrely specific requirements…I’m over it, you guys. And judging by the response we’ve gotten on Twitter, it looks like you are too.”
Protein World has remained defiant in the face of criticism directed at the advert by re-tweeting messages of support for its campaign on its official Twitter feed. It also tweeted that it is "here to motivate, not commiserate", alongside the hashtag #getagrip.
Arjun Seth, the chief executive of the company, saw the backlash grow exponentially when he appeared on Channel 4 and claimed those complaining about the poster and defacing adverts were “terrorists” and “extremists” who “shout a lot”.
Ms Longmuir described Protein World’s reaction as “disgusting”.
“They claim to support healthy bodies, whatever size that means, but have been calling women fat, belittling feminism and mocking mental health sufferers. From a company claiming that they support healthy women, this is completely outrageous,” she said.
Protein World also denied accusations of sexism in a statement, where a spokesperson said: "It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren't focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.
"Renee, our stunning model, falls well within what the British Government deem to be a healthy weight, based on the BMI system.
"We now run Britain’s largest protein facility, selling our products in over 50 countries to more than 300,000 customers. Most of them are women. How could we possibly be sexist?"
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