I can’t believe I am still talking about toxic gym culture, but this week I was contacted by Mamamia to comment on Aaron Cartright, owner of a South Australian gym called “Harden The Fat Up”, who decided to market his gym’s ‘21 day body transformation package’ with this fb ad:
(Imagine a before and after photo of a headless woman’s torso here – I can’t bring myself to actually upload it.)
“Let me guess ladies??? You feel unfit, unattractive, self-conscious and worthless… especially when standing in front of the mirror naked.”
“You feel embarrassed and ashamed getting naked in front of your partner… You’re sick and tired of picking outfits that hide your fat. And you want to feel comfortable in your own skin, wear your favourite outfits, feel fit, confident, attractive and sexy.
“But there’s a problem. You’re too afraid to join a gym because you’re too embarrassed, ashamed, self conscious, worried about being judged and most of all, you’re just too nervous to commit.
“But that stops now. We understand you.”
Who knew it ‘ladies’, the solution to feeling less ashamed, more worthy of existing, more confident, attractive, and of course more ok NAKED – is to
This FB Ad is clumsily written, it’s VERY man-splainy, and it’s definitely over-familiar (bordering on creepy). Yes, there’s a lot of research to show that many women don’t like their appearance, that concerns about body size stop women from being naked with their partner, that body dissatisfaction is correlated with low self-worth.
But the solution to these issues is NOT a body transformation program!
This is an extreme example of shame-based marketing, where women are told there’s a problem (their body!), and then sold a solution (the 21 day harden-the-fat-up body transformation!). This type of manipulative tactic is EVERYWHERE in modern gym culture, and women are SICK of it!
So sick of it, in fact, that the internet basically BLEW UP at this post, with many women expressing their outrage:
“I can tell you I do feel embarrassed, ashamed and self-conscious all the time. And having posts like this pop up in my feed definitely, don’t make me feel better about myself,”
“The idea that a business would deliberately, and proudly use those feelings to try and drive up the number of people who attend their gym is disgusting.”
Unfortunately, Aaron got quite defensive about the complaints, and rather than take it down, he made a tiny change to his fb ad:
LET ME GUESS LADIES ❓❓❓
Some of you feel unfit, unattractive, self-conscious & worthless…especially when standing in front of the mirror naked..
You see what he did – he made it say SOME OF US. And as far as he was concerned, that’s the only change that was needed:
“Apart from that we make no apologies, as if you read it properly with an open mind you will see we’re stating the truth on how ‘SOME’ women feel about themselves at the moment, how they want to feel and what they know they need to do to feel better*.”
According to Aaron, the problem here is not his messaging – it’s our inability to listen properly! Goodness, if only our tiny ears could widen the f*** up!
You know what, Aaron? There is a listening problem in toxic gym culture. You are the ones not listening to us. Please don’t gaslight women by saying we’re not listening well enough when you are the one ignoring our opinions!
This whole story took a new twist when Aaron was invited on Channel 10’s The Project. It says a lot about our culture when the main focus of this story was to hear more from Aaron. None of the women he’d upset were asked to speak! The entire story was backdropped with grabs from Aaron’s gym – it was basically free publicity for someone whose only claim to fame was to offend and upset the women he claims to care about.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to know that once again, the dominant viewpoint of toxic gym culture has been championed and centred, while the voices of the people hurt most by diet culture have been silenced.
On TV, Aaron came across as a pretty nice person. But he was totally focused on himself and his right to ‘speak for women’. He remained convinced that his ‘brutally honest message’ was worth offending ‘some people’. And the next day on his fb page he posted a pretty nasty message to women he labelled as ‘haters’:
“That moment where all the HATERS who went to the media to bring HTFU down, realised their hating got HTFU Fitness on national prime time TV to tell their side of things & instead of bringing our gym down & making us look bad, we got SUPPORTED on national TV & Australia wide & our community came closer.
The point I’m trying to make on this post is SIMPLE..
In life you CANNOT please everyone, not everyone will agree with you.. & that’s totally fine.
If you try to please everyone or worry people won’t agree with you, you will upset yourself internally..
As long as you are TRUE to yourself & you believe your intentions are good, go for it & never take a step back..
Do not let other people’s opinions change your opinion of yourself or bring you down because they honestly don’t matter.
The only opinion in the world that truely matters is the opinion you have of yourself..”
So many women that I speak with are feeling ignored in toxic gym environments. I am truly disappointed that an opportunity for Aaron to listen and learn from women who are tired of being marketed to in a fear and shame-based way has been dismissed. More than dismissed – told that their opinion just ‘doesn’t matter’…
Being told that your opinion doesn’t matter – that’s enough to make someone feel pretty worthless, don’t you think, Aaron?
* You guessed it – Aaron’s HTFU 21 Day Body Transformation!!