Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: On Empowering Language and New Year Marketing

New Year Graphic.pngIf you listen to as many podcasts as I do, you’ve no doubt heard ads for the new Huawei Fit. The copy goes something like this:

“The fitness tracker for every BODY. You don’t have to be a super fit athlete, the Huawei fitness tracker is designed to meet you where you’re at.”

Something like that. The part that makes me laugh every time is “The fitness tracker for every BODY.” As if all these other fitness trackers are designed for size 4 and below. As if Fitbits aren’t just a super pricey pedometer, but the exclusive domain of only fit, hot, and strong people that make their money being fit on Instagram. As if this isn’t just a piece of pandering, appropriated bullshit using body positive language to sell some overpriced gadget that will make you no fitter. Meanwhile, go to the website and it’s the same old fit, thin, mostly white people sporting hundreds or thousands of dollars of workout wear and equipment.

Well, if it’s for every BODY, it’s at least gotta be financially accessible, right? It’s $130 on Amazon and Best Buy, putting it around the same price point as other wearables.

Next up, CodyApp. Codyapp.com is a website/platform that allows you to buy individual classes or plans from fitness instructors. I like it both because it supports and really pushes Dana Falsetti and Jessamyn Stanley, two plus-size yoga instructors who are all about body positivity and movement for all bodies (and feature a variety of bodies in their videos), and because it’s cheaper and more accessible than yoga studios. But it too is guilty of appropriating empowering language as a marketing tactic. I received an email this morning about the #nothingtoprove month-long campaign. The deal is, each time you log a workout add #nothingtoprove and get entered to win prizes like a CodyApp t-shirt or a free class. Fine, cool. But there is no context whatsoever for “#nothingtoprove,” beyond “If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried.”

Which makes little-to-no sense to me in the context of doing yoga in my living room. But in the context of January 1st–the immense money and marketing machine behind convincing us all that we are flawed, broken, nigh-irredeemable lumps of Christmas cookies and tofurkey that can only be saved through sweat, tears, and pricey gym memberships with brand new compression tights to match, it makes a lot of sense.

We’ve been having a moment, these last few years, where we try to push back against unrealistic and absurd body ideals and expectations, only to see that resistance commodified and turned into a slogan over a highly filtered picture on Instagram–or made into a t-shirt.

Strong is the new skinny (but you should still be skinny, we’re not talking strong a.f. Sarah Robles here). Diets are bad, but cleanses, resets, and challenges are just gravy (but not actual gravy, fat and flour are on the no-no list!). Fuck diets but here’s a plan to cut out sugar and refined carbs and alcohol and dairy and here’s some unscientific mumbo-jumbo about toxins and cleanses.

Honour yourself by restricting your diet immensely, but this isn’t the same old New Year’s Diet because…we’re calling it something else! We’re saying things like “You don’t need to be fixed (but here are 8 quick fixes!).” “Fuck diets but here’s a super restrictive eating plan to start the year off right!” “You’re good enough as you are, but you better not let a tasty morsel of sugar pass your lips for the next 31 days!”

Be wary, friends, of those who use empowering language to sell the same old toxic ideas. Who use body positive language to play against–while cashing in on–the ubiquitous diet talk that swirls around us  for the first month of each year.

I encourage you to engage critically with any messaging that uses body positive and/or feminist languaging then tries to sell you something. Examine whether the product matches the pitch, or is just appropriating liberatory language to sell an old product under a new guise.

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4 thoughts on “Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: On Empowering Language and New Year Marketing

  1. I saw the title of this post and thought immediately of the Huawei Fit ads airing on Comedy Bang Bang – glad to see we’re both caught up on CBB! And yes yes yes, to everything you’ve written.

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