I’ve been spending a lot of time commuting on the metro lately. Generally, I spend the uninterrupted 35 minutes below ground reading and thinking quietly to myself, not interacting with the world around me. Generally, my ride is predictable–I weave seamlessly through the crowds, try to find a seat, avoid eye contact, and I’m set. Recently, I was transferring lines and was figuratively hit in the face by bright orange advertising where I was expecting gray.
Tropicana ordered me: “Beautify our transit system. SMILE.”
After some careful consideration, I decided not to take it as personally targeted to me as a woman. I could have taken issue with it–the ad has nothing to do with Tropicana’s slogan (Have a Tropicana Morning), has nothing to do with orange juice, and has no place in the metro where food and drink are prohibited. But I wanted to let it go, rather than let it bother me twice a day as I pass it. After all, nothing they said was explicitly gendered. Maybe they didn’t mean it the way women are often told to smile.
Unfortunately, not long after this ad campaign went up, I was surprised on the metro again. I saw this picture over another rider’s shoulder, and I got angry.
(Picture contains a woman in underclothes standing on a scale and looking upset at the number there. Prominent text reads “Can’t lose weight? We can help!”)
My first thought was one of confusion—“Wait, she’s a perfectly normal woman! What help does she need losing weight?” I groaned and found a nearby copy of the commuter newspaper to have a closer look. This ad was clearly targeted at me, a woman (of similar build to the model). I could not ignore this one. I’m going to point out a few things about it that bother me.