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Diet Culture

'Flat Tummy' Fury

posted 04:47 PM EST, Tue August 21, 2018

At a time when there seems to be more of an emphasis on female empowerment than ever before, messages of shame related to body size still permeate our culture.

At a time when there seems to be more of an emphasis on female empowerment than ever before, messages of shame related to body size still permeate our culture. Open any magazine at the checkout counter, turn on any major network during prime-time, or buy a movie ticket and the images of the women you see will be largely homogeneous. Yes, exceptions do exist, and their voices are getting louder. But when young girls and teens consume these images, it paints a powerful picture of what it means to be beautiful in our culture, and upholds an unrealistic standard. Fortunately, the public is beginning to pay closer attention to these harmful portrayals, and there are more options available for eating disorder treatment than ever before.

Flat Tummy Fury

One such harmful portrayal sparked an outcry recently, when the Flat Tummy Co. was met with a major backlash due to an advertising campaign featured on billboards in Times Square. The company sells appetite-reducing lollipops and other diet substances, and their marketing efforts are directed specifically at young women. The controversial billboards contained phrases like, “Got cravings? Girl, tell them to #SUCKIT,” and “1.5 million BABES and counting,” referring to Flat Tummy’s massive Instagram following. The infantilizing ad, in which no men are featured, portrays young women sucking on lollipops.

The messaging is clear here. Ignore your hunger cues, avoid nourishment, and buy our product. The product itself, a lollipop, is designed to attract a younger demographic, just like the candy cigarettes of days gone by. But this irresponsible campaign’s silver lining is the fury it sparked on social media. Countless outraged women have been speaking loudly about their disdain for what they believe to be Flat Tummy’s use of dangerous pro-ana, thinspo rhetoric in an exploitative marketing campaign.

Women Fight Back

Twitter and Instagram became inundated with messages like, “Hey Twitter, Let’s use our power for good by guilting @FlatTummyCo into taking down their Times Square billboard advertising appetite suppressants. Love, A former-anorexic teenage girl,” from Sophie Vershbow. Instagram user @agostinaele criticized a post featuring a sale on Flat Tummy lollipops, saying, “Your entire campaign is aimed at women because women are always told they must be smaller/thinner/less while men can look however they want. YOU are the problem. Anyone working for this company should feel ashamed. You are disgusting.”

In the midst of the backlash, Tess Holiday started a change.org campaign to pressure Flat Tummy into taking down their Times Square ads. She criticized their messaging, saying, “Hunger is your body’s way of communicating when it needs food, which gives us energy, without which we cannot survive. There is something deeply wrong when marketers tell women that their appearance (based on sexist body standards) is more important than their health and survival.” As of this writing, the campaign has garnered an incredible 100,988 signatures, and the momentum continues to build. Organizers set a goal of 150,000 signatures, which would send a powerful message to Flat Tummy about the harmful nature of their advertising. To add your voice to the cause, simply add your name and email address to the petition here.

Slow but Meaningful Progress

The anger levied at Flat Tummy’s blatant promotion of diet culture is a signal that women are fed up with being told they need to be smaller to be satisfied with their bodies. We know that restrictive eating habits are directly linked to an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. But to begin changing the narrative around body image, it’s imperative that we speak out against dangerous messaging like the Flat Tummy campaign and speak openly about eating disorder treatment.

Take time to talk to the young women in your life about the messages they see and hear in the media, balanced nutrition, and making lifelong healthy habits. Look for ways to encourage other women to embrace their unique shape and honor their bodies no matter their size.

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Story Highlights
  • Flat Tummy: Company caught in a backlash over their advertising of appetite-reducing lollipops.
  • Petition: Tess Holiday's campaign to take down Times Square ads has received over 100k signatures.
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