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December 17 2019

The Peloton Bike Outrage Needs to be Directed at the Mutilation of Girls, Women

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Did you catch the outrage over the Peloton indoor bike advertisement? This popular fitness brand is receiving backlash for allegedly perpetuating gender stereotypes. 

The outrage is indicative of just how out of touch the women’s equality movement today is. People are upset about an ad for a $2,400 bike meanwhile girls and women suffer female genital mutilation every year--right here here in the United States. Where is the outrage for them?

Here’s the story.

Peloton produces $2,400 stationary bicycles with screens that allow riders to connect with coaches, trainers, and other riders for a $39 monthly subscription fee.

For the holidays Peloton introduced an ad in which a husband surprised his wife, who is slim physically, with a Peloton bike. She’s elated and captured her fitness journey through a video blog to thank her husband. 

Did you catch the sexism, classism, body-shaming, and white-privilege? I did not when I first saw the ad, but social media’s woke police came to the rescue.

As Elle magazine wrote:

The spot quickly racked up 8.8 million views on YouTube, along with online criticisms for being sexist, classist, and tone-deaf. The internet also voiced legitimate concern for Ruiz, whose facial expression throughout the 30-second clip is, as someone pointed out, "straight terror." ("It's like an episode of Black Mirror," one Twitter user wrote; "Save the Peloton Wife!" said another.)

The ad had been running for months but Twitter just caught on.

Cosmopolitan captured some of the Twitter outrage too:

Sydney Chandler @syds180turn

Has anyone seen this #peloton crap? A 100 lb woman exercising on a bike to be a 90 lb woman 7 that's to be applauded? Hell NO! This crap is dangerous (anorexia), sexist & just plain stupid and out-of-touch. She looks like a Stepford Wife. And there's a little girl. Bad messaging. https://twitter.com/onepeloton/status/1194389524203343873 

The editors of Fortune’s women’s newsletter weren’t initially outraged either until social media woke them to stereotypes promoting them to conclude

It is a bit dumbfounding that Peloton—a viral, disruptive player in the tech and fitness space—didn’t see this coming. In the current climate, brands are using their advertising to challenge long-fraught stereotypes; in just 30 seconds, Peloton managed to reinforce quite a few of them.

We are told that ad offensive because it features a white, cis couple; the couple is affluent (looking at their home and given the pricetag of the bike); the wife is aready skinny; the husband is body shaming her; the wife didn’t ask the bike but he decided she need it (i.e. he’s controlling); the wife has a “prisoner-in-my-own-home” expression throgughout the ad; and a little girl is watching this patriarchical power dynamic.

This outrage is asinine. It’s just another opportunity to perpetuate a faux narrative about women’s victimhood.

Meanwhile, real female victims go ignored.

If you want to talk about something that is truly harmful to women and sets back our cause of equality, let’s talk about female genital mutiliation (FGM). The practice refers to the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for nonmedical reasons. There are no health benefits, but results in lasting physical injury and can even lead to death of the girls and women who undergo the procedure. 

FGM is a global practice but is most common in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where a jaw dropping 200 million girls and women have undergone the procedure.

According to 2012 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. have experienced or are at risk of female genital mutilation. 

Some 26 states have outlawed FGM and it is a federal crime, but the practice still occurs. 

Congress has a chance to update the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) to include stronger laws against FGM and better enforcement. IWF has been a leading voice promoting this reform.

Instead of railing against fitness ads, the social media police should direct their ire toward a cause that can save the lives of women.

Also read:

Video: We Must Protect Girls and Women From FGM

Two Truths and a Lie: Female Genital Mutilation

Petition: Stop FGM

 




Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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