Opinion: Sadiq Khan allowed the Trump Baby blimp - so why did be ban those 'beach body' ads?

Opinion: Sadiq Khan allowed the Trump Baby blimp - so why did be ban those 'beach body' ads?

The blimp, left, and the Protein World ads. Image: Hannah Atkinson/Twitter/Trump Baby

Friday, July 13, 2018

talkRADIO's digital editor gives her take on the criticism levelled at Sadiq Khan. These views are her own and not talkRADIO's. 

The Trump Baby blimp was allowed to fly over Parliament Square this morning, despite many critics, including Republicans Overseas UK, calling the protest “embarrassing”.

Many people have been asking why Sadiq Khan allowed the blimp, but banned an advert that appeared on the London Underground in 2016 that depicted a woman in a bikini.

Read more: Trump Baby blimp denied permission to fly at Turnberry golf course

You may remember the now-infamous Protein World advert, which featured a model and the words “are you beach body ready?” A petition for its removal, created in 2015, amassed over 70,000 signatures, and led to the Mayor of London banning the ad.

At the same time, the Advertising Standards Agency did not uphold complaints that it insinuated other body types to the one shown were inferior, and that it was socially irresponsible.

They did, though, say the ad couldn’t appear again in its current form because of “concerns about health and weight-loss claims”.

'Unrealistic expectations on their bodies'

In a statement about the adverts, Khan 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.”

On the Trump Baby blimp, he took a different stance, saying not allowing it could “limit the rights to free speech”.

"I shouldn't be the arbiter, as a politician, of what's in good taste or bad taste, what's important is it to be peaceful, and for it to be safe,” he said.

"And, frankly speaking, the idea that we limit the rights to protest, we limit the rights to free speech because it may cause offence to a foreign leader is a very, very slippery slope."


Twitter is awash with people pointing out the disparity in his stances.

“So Sadiq Khan bans adverts with bikini pictures on the tube because it is inappropriate, but allows a massive blimp of the most powerful man in the world dressed in a nappy and dummy? Absolute hypocrisy,” tweeted one person.

To be clear, I have no ill feeling towards Sadiq Khan, and I happen to be one of the people who finds the blimp amusing. It should also be pointed out that protest action is not really comparable with an advert, as the former hinges on the concept of free speech, while other is trying to sell something. But I have to agree that this is selective censorship from the Mayor.

Thousands of people were offended by the Protein World adverts, and thousands of people were also offended by the blimp. Trump’s allies called it an insult to the leader of the United States, while those who took against the beach-bodied model called it an insult to women whose bodies didn’t look like hers.

But are Protein World not just as entitled to think that the model’s body is an ideal to strive for, as the blimp’s creators are to think that Trump is a “giant, angry baby”?

For some people, achieving a slim and toned physique like the model is a goal. For others, it isn’t, and if they felt the advert was insidiously trying to make them feel bad, I’d hazard a guess that’s more down to their own insecurities than Protein World deliberately fat-shaming.

Allowing the blimp was, as Khan said, the right thing to do when it came to free speech. But if Trump’s supporters and the president himself have to lump it when he’s shown as a rotund, nappy-clad toddler, then so should the people who felt their own bodies fell short of Protein World’s standards have had to lump it when presented with what some consider a physique to aspire to.