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Spanish campaign to promote body positive inclusiveness at the beach

Between good intentions and controversy

Spanish campaign to promote body positive inclusiveness at the beach Between good intentions and controversy

"Summer belongs to us, too." This is the slogan of the new campaign promoted by the Spanish Ministry of Equality led by Irene Montero, of the leftist Podemos party, and the Instituto de las Mujeres, an organization under the ministry that focuses on women's rights and gender equality. The intent, in line with other initiatives dedicated to women's empowerment taken recently by Spain such as paid menstrual leave or the law regulating relationships without consent, is to combat fatphobia and restore dignity to all women's bodies, encouraging women to enjoy the sea and wear swimsuits regardless of their appearance. As Toni Morillas, director of the Instituto de las Mujeres, pointed out, "Body expectations are projected onto women that not only affect our self-esteem, but also deny rights and condition the way we are and enjoy public space." How many times are they told that they are not thin enough, young enough, that they have stretch marks, cellulite or scars, and that their bodies are not good enough? Each comment undermines self-esteem, significantly impacting health, quality of life, and even exercising a simple right like going to the beach without guilt or shame. The "El Verano es nuestro" campaign wants to remind people that "all bodies are valid, that it is essential to recognize that bodily diversity exists and claim it, free of stereotypes and violence."

Despite the good intentions, not everyone has welcomed the campaign, branding it as a waste of money, pointing out the absence of men in the images and stressing that if a person wants to, fat or not, they do it anyway and certainly do not need permission from the ministry to go to the beach. Leftist leader Cayo Lara went further, claiming that the campaign is "absurd" and "creates a problem where none exists." The most serious controversy is related to the promotional image. The visual design created by transfeminist studio Arte Mapache by illustrator Gisela Escat shows five smiling women in swimsuits of different builds, ages, and ethnicities who, free from judgment and social pressure, enjoy a normal day at the beach. Without worrying about hair, cellulite, stretch marks or mastectomy scars. The problem is that three of the women portrayed were not asked for permission to use their photo and that the photo of one of them, Sian Green-Lord, was digitally altered to hide her prosthetic leg. Escat apologized for using the images without permission and promised to divide the compensation received for the illustration, which amounts to 4,490 euros, among the people she included in the campaign.

The controversy has overshadowed the mission of the Spanish government's campaign, but it remains, albeit a small speck in the desert, an attempt to raise awareness of bodies that do not conform to prevailing beauty ideals. Because although on Instagram we praise the body positivity beauty of celebrities such as Ashley Graham and Lizzo, in real life the social pressure to have a perfect, imperfection-free body is so strong. It is so much so that when others are not judging us, we do it ourselves, deciding to limit ourselves and suffocate ourselves under shapeless clothing. We do not wear swimsuits and, even if we want to, we forgo the beach to avoid judgmental stares or even our reflection in the mirror.