Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Media Watch: Making an ASOS of Themselves

Times, it seems, have changed. Once upon a time you could insult muscular women with impunity and fear no retribution. Well, not anymore, not here in the UK anyway. Or at least not here in the UK when the muscular woman that you've insulted happens to be something of a celebrity with over half a million followers on her Twitter.

Once again, it's time to big up Jodie Marsh.

Once upon a time, Jodie was, in the words of one of our readers all that is wrong in pop-culture, [a] vapid no-talent skank with a repulsive surgically enhanced 'hot' body. But then, as reported by FMS way back in October 2011 (see Jodie Marsh Takes It Mainstream), Jodie took up bodybuilding for a TV documentary. She didn't turn into Lisa Cross, but the results were impressive. Now she's gotten her shit together and is showing the world what a bit of hard work does, our reader continued. The fruits of her labour impressive, her body is actually worthy of attention now.

Another documentary was made (see Marsh in the USA) following Jodie as she prepared for, and ultimately won, a natural bodybuilding competition in the US.

Meanwhile, FMS reported that Jodie's story was inspiring women in the UK to get into the gym and lift. We called this phenomenon "The Marsh Effect", and a year and a half after our first Jodie-related post, we concluded that despite not being the biggest, the most successful, or by any conventional criteria the best female bodybuilder Britain has produced, in terms of promoting the sport and inspiring her fellow women, there's no arguing with the fact that it's Jodie Marsh who has got the results.

Jodie even moved into the supplements game and, with so many women taking inspiration and motivation from her, she has become a sort of unofficial spokesperson for the physical and psychological benefits of weight training for women.

And that pretty much brings us up to 20th May this year, when whoever is (or, more likely, was) responsible for the official Twitter account of "online shopping giant" ASOS made the mistake of insulting Jodie Marsh in a reply to a somewhat sarcastic but nonetheless genuine customer enquiry about the models they use for their clothes.

[The tweet was, shock horror, removed, so click on the pic to see the details]

Jodie, unsurprisingly, was less than impressed...

You may remember that Jodie has spoken at length about her past as a victim of bullying, about how it had all but destroyed her self-esteem. Weight training had enabled her to rediscover her sense of self-worth, and she had taken up the cause, becoming an ambassador, the media face of a nationwide anti-bullying campaign.

Her Twitter followers were outraged...

OMG!! Shocking you are an inspiration to many and this is disgusting! You are strong and fit, not manly!! Disgusting ASOS!... How stupid of them to pick on someone who is known for fighting against bullying. Plus you look great... I'm sending back my orders now. This is why I left the fashion world. Nasty people who promote eating disorders... This is disgraceful! Way for them to alienate potential customers just for choosing the fitness lifestyle! I'm horrified by this... Absolutely disgraceful. Do you eck look like a man Jodie! You're beautiful and I absolutely love you!

Within hours, ASOS had sent Jodie an apology. But she wasn't having it, and retaliated by retweeting yet more messages of support from her followers and a picture of herself wearing a dress she had actually bought from ASOS. Do you think I look like a man????? the accompanying tweet read, I don't. And then she followed that up with another message, spelling out to ASOS exactly what they should be apologising for.

By the evening, national online news platforms were picking up on the story, reporting that Jodie was shaking with rage and/or close to tears. And, unlike the minion at ASOS (who was probably at that very moment clearing his desk), the national media proved itself to be a lot more savvy to the "Strong Is Sexy" zeitgeist, joining Jodie's followers in laying into ASOS's insulting attitude towards her fit, strong and healthy body, and accusing them of promoting harmful body ideals through their choice of models.

At around 8pm that evening, ASOS issued another apology. And this apology was addressed not only to Jodie, but also to anyone else who was offended. On top of that, note ASOS's new-found commitment to promoting positive body image.

By the next morning, any online news sources that hadn't carried the story the day before were carrying it now. Even the more high-minded such as The Independent (who wouldn't normally touch a Jodie Marsh story with a ten-foot pole) were jumping on the bash ASOS band wagon. Jodie had promised some good will come from this late the previous evening, and the next day she announced exactly how ASOS was going to put it right - a nice big fat £10,000 donation to Jodie's anti-bullying charity.

So a happy ending, then. A VERY happy ending. Talk about turning a negative into a positive! as one of her Twitter followers exclaimed. And for me, and I think all female muscle fans here in the UK, AND all the weight-training women of Britain who sweat so hard for their beautiful bodies, there is even more to celebrate than the fact that a very worthy cause has received a big chunk of money, because from now on, insulting a woman for lifting weights or having muscles is, quite simply, not going to be on.

The ASOS debacle should and probably will have companies up and down the land firing off missives to its employees, particularly those involved in their online presence, making damn sure everyone understands that they are to add women with muscles to the list of things it is definitely not cool to diss on the company time.

Perhaps the next time one of us is in a group of people and someone starts talking about a muscular woman in a negative way, we will think of what transpired on the 21st and 22nd May this year. And we'll turn round to that misguided fool, look them straight in the eye, and tell them they are making a right ASOS of themselves.

And if you do pay a visit to her Twitter you can see just some of the women that Jodie is helping to learn to love themselves and their bodies through pumping iron (and, I dare say, taking the odd supplement from her range). "The Marsh Effect" shows absolutely no signs of fading. If anything, it keeps getting stronger and stronger.

Jodie Marsh, I imagine, probably doesn't much fit your idea of what a "female bodybuilder" looks like, and she certainly doesn't fit mine. However, she is doing more to promote weight training for women, and more to make the British public's perception of those women a positive one than anyone else I can think of.

As well as her Twitter, you can keep up with "The Marsh Effect" on Jodie's Instagram and/or Facebook. Learn about and donate to her anti-bullying campaign here.

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