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Subway: Please Don’t Use Halloween To Make Women Feel Fat

Posted on the 31 October 2014 by Juliez
Subway: Please Don’t Use Halloween To Make Women Feel Fat

Whether it’s the annoyingly catchy five-dollar footlong jingle or Jared Fogle’s promise that you will lose weight by eating sandwiches, Subway commercials are abundantly recognizable in our culture. These advertisements have ranged from harmless, to annoying, to misleading (sorry, the Subway diet doesn’t seem plausible to me) but the latest addition to the repertoire has been attracting a lot of negative press for being sexist and sizeist.

In order to capitalize on Halloween, Subway recently released a commercial in which a woman calls out two of her coworkers for eating burgers. She advises them that in order to be thin for Halloween costume season, they should eat Subway. She then explores her costume options, which include an “Attractive Nurse, Spicy Red Riding Hood, Viking Princess Warrior, Hot Devil, Sassy Teacher, and Foxy Fullback.” Each of these costumes includes short skirts, midriff-baring shirts, and sexually suggestive props and gestures.

The issues with this video are obvious and it’s shocking to me that nobody questioned its content during its many phases of production.This commercial could have depicted normal costumes or could have shown a man attempting to fit into a costume. However, the misguided and insensitive advertisement reinforces the reality that women are constantly sexualized and shamed for their body size in our society.

It’s (unfortunately) commonly accepted that Halloween is a time for women to wear sexy outfits. While women should be free to dress however they want, this advertisement reflects the unfortunate reality that most costumes marketed toward women are hyper-sexualized. Go to Party City or other Halloween stores, for instance, and you’ll inevitably be confronted with sexualized Disney Princesses or even sexy versions of the minions from the children’s movie “Despicable Me.” Furthermore, these costumes are often racist. Halloween notoriously encourages our society to reduce women to sexual objects and this commercial only encourages that behavior.

Beyond encouraging sexualization, this ad also contributes to the myriad forces that cause women to feel insecure about their bodies — on Halloween as well as every other day of the year — in this case, so that Subway can profit on our insecurity by convincing us to eat their “low fat” sandwiches. Moreover, the video clearly caters to a male audience: the only person in the commercial who comments on the “sexy” costumes is a man. When the woman poses in these skimpy outfits, the only person we can see watching her is her male friend, which indicates that the only reason to be thin and dress sexily is for the male gaze and his pleasure, not for female empowerment or because we feel like it.

Subway recently released a statement in response to the internet frenzy surrounding the commercial. They stated, “We understand that some people may not have picked up on the intended humor in our Halloween commercial” and that “Our objective was certainly not to offend anyone.” Not only does this statement make those of us who were offended seem like we’re overreacting for not picking up on the “intended humor,” but it also completely lacks an actual apology for the sexist crap they are peddling as an advertisement. Telling women not to be offended — that we just didn’t get the joke, so shame on us — is one of the oldest, sexist tricks in the book and is completely unacceptable. In fact, Subway is the confused party in its incomprehension of female consumers who refuse to be influenced by a company that plays on our insecurities in order to sell us their product.

However, this phenomenon is not limited to this commercial or Subway as a company. Women are constantly told we need to work towards our perfect summer body / spring body / back-to-school body / get-back-at-your-ex body and now, apparently, Halloween body. This creates completely unattainable goals and perpetuates the persistent narrative that women’s bodies need to fit a narrow standard. Young women are told that if they can’t fit a stereotypical image of a “sexy firefighter” that they’re failing in some way. The last thing we need is girls starving themselves (or eating crappy low-fat sandwiches) to fit into society’s expectation of sexiness.

So, no thanks, Subway. I’ll take my business elsewhere.

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