TTC & The National Ballet of Canada’s Joint Campaign Falls Short : What About Body Diversity?

Posted on October 27, 2016

Media Literacy 101 Our statement was never an “attack” on ballet or athletic bodies.  It has been very convenient for some readers to suggest we are ‘attacking’ ballet and athletic bodies as a way of justifying the racist, sexist and fat phobic private emails and messages people have left online. Ads have meaning and when one type of body is usually linked with ideals of beauty, grace etc. and others are systematically left out this sends a message loaded with tons of meaning. Some of us can choose to agree, disagree with or ignore that fact for our own gains or to maintain our own comfort but it doesn’t change the reality. Images matter. People are impacted by images especially when they see similar images all the time that routinely do not represent them. Some people do not care about this and others do. We happen to be ones who do.
We are asking the public to reflect on what images mean. Media Literacy 101.


“Regarding the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission)  and The National Ballet of Canada joint campaign, we have concerns about the body size, shape and weight diversity, or should we say lack thereof, that this campaign unknowingly communicates.The body type of most ballet dancers do not adequately represent those of most Canadians and dare we say most TTC users.

While we completely agree with the intent of message: one of acknowledging and celebrating Toronto arts and culture, we believe initiatives like these, executed in this manner, continue to perpetuate unrealistic and highly regimented bodies as some sort of an ideal of “beauty.” More specific to this ad, the bodies pictured become unintended signifiers of some sort of higher “art” and “culture” to aspire towards.

It is also well documented that ballet as both an art form and as a sport is not inclusive to differently shaped or weighted bodies traditionally and if so it is usually more tokenistic in value than a recurring event. While we know some alternative ballet exists that feature differently sized bodies for instance, it does not receive the prominent attention nor the distinct, elite ranking that institutions such as National Ballet of Canada would enjoy.

Our critique is NOT a dislike of ballet. We want to make that crystal clear. We have attended ballets and quite enjoyed them – though we did leave longing to see more progressive shifts in body diversity.

Our critique is a challenge to you to reflect on what version of “enhanced beauty and art“(TTC and The National Ballet)  is being privileged in this ad for public consumption by the public TTC? What about those who will never embody this mold? Are they equally moving, beautiful and symbols of Toronto’s thriving cultural fabric?

Screen Shot 2016 10 31 at 5.40.49 PM TTC & The National Ballet of Canadas Joint Campaign Falls Short : What About Body Diversity?

Many TTC users in their daily movements who identify as fat, racialized, disabled, elderly and pregnant have experienced varying forms of body-based discrimination, sexual harassment,fat and body-shaming or simply rude treatment where they are not given seats even in designated priority areas based on their mobility needs.

We do not believe this campaign reflects how users of the TTC “move” regularly. We have had many pleasant experiences on the TTC and in our city travels but sadly the negative experiences can have lasting consequences.

An ad like this could have been made more inclusive with the addition of non-pro/pro children and adult dancers of differing sizes, shapes, ages and abilities dancing with The National Ballet principals in the video. THEN we would be seeing MORE of Toronto’s superb beauty, art and culture in motion in collaboration – together.

At the end of the day if you want us – TTC users- to be emotively ‘moved’ by a campaign like this while we are ‘on the move’ we MUST SEE OURSELVES.

Thank you for reading this and we are happy to discuss this further with you. We are body image advocates in Toronto who are currently advocating to have size and appearance based discrimination made illegal in Ontario and hopefully in Canada. Our annual event the Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs) recognizes champions of body diversity, equity and inclusion who are actively fighting against stifling and stereotypical body image ideals through their work.”

Jill Andrew & Aisha Fairclough
Founders Body Confidence Canada Awards & Fat In The City

Toronto Star – TTC Ballet campaign gets unflattering review

Listen to Jill’s AM 640 interview  here

Watch Jill’s interview on City TV News here









Posted in Body Image, Canada, Canadian, Human Rights, public transit

  • skarfaced

    The dancers’ bodies are realistic : FOR DANCERS.which is what the ad is about.

    You’re such a hypocrite. “Body confidence “? Yet you’re shaming ballet dancers for having beautiful bodies that they worked hard for?

    Should all athletes feel bad for having beautiful bodies?

    If you actually worked out and had a healthy diet, you would have a beautiful, athletic body. So stop shaming people who do

    Actually, their bodies WOULD be realistic and representative of the population if we ate and worked out as a normal human should.

    Stop wasting your time. promote healthy eating and fitness.

  • skarfaced

    Fat in the city?

    Why not promote FIT in the city?

    There’s nothing realistic about overweight , obese people, regardles if the majority has that body

    Humans were never meant to be overweight.

    The human body is meant to be fit and athletic. Look at all the amazing things we can do with our bodies.

    Your knees are breaking down. You have problems with your feet swelling. Your arteries are clogged. Yes, because your diet and inactivity is unrealistic for the human body

  • ticky13

    Can you please show me any images you have of fat professional ballet dancers to actually prove your argument?

    What’s that? You require an athletic-type body to do a physically demanding performance? That’s what I thought.

  • Johnny_B_Goode

    Oh please, whaaaa!

  • englishinator

    Dear fat people: Believe it or not, not everything is about you. Quit your damn whining.

  • r_chevalier

    this isn’t about mobility, or shapes, or colours, or sizes, or pronouns, or whatever other buzzword is popular this week. want to go be emotionally MOVED by a ballet performance? a ballet performance put on by the national ballet of Canada? featuring professionals who have trained and dedicated their entire lives for just that very thing? TTC can get you can…MOVE you there. literally. OHMYGOD…THIS CAMPAIGN USED A SIMILE!? how oppressive.

    next you’ll be offended by any ad featuring anyone with both arms, because it’s ableist.

  • Melissa-Anne

    “Body Confidence Canada discredits their organization by discriminating against dancer’s bodies”

    I find 2 things disturbing about your organization:

    1. Your lack of understanding of what discrimination is.

    I will provide for you a definition. Discrimination: The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or other groups. (Merriam-Webster, 2016 Online)
    Since your problem with the National Ballet & TTC campaign was due to, “body weight, shape and weight diversity,” I ask you WHY now? WHY Ballet? WHERE was your voice when the other athletes were featured in ads? OF course the dance community is going to feel attacked! You have targeted only one type of athlete featured in TTC campaigns. If you had spoke out against those other campaigns in a negative way, you wouldn’t appear to be CLEARLY exemplifying discrimination against one group of athletes….Ballet Dancers.

    2. Your lack of knowledge.

    Please, PLEASE don’t speak on something you know nothing about! I understand that you tried your very best to sound intelligent in the above statement, but you should know not to make statements without valid references! “It is well documented that Ballet as both an arm form and sport is not inclusive to differently shaped or weighted bodies…while we know some alternative Ballet exists that feature some differently sized bodies for instance, it does not receive the prominent attention…” This statement reveals the writer doesn’t have a basic knowledge or understanding of Ballet, Dance, or current dance research! Please be transparent…what document (lol) did you read this from? What valid dance research referred to dance as a sport? Please provide your research here!! If you ACTUALLY conducted research, you would probably understand that Health and Wellness (NOT body shape & weight!!!!) has been the top priority for dance educators, particularly in the last 25 years. Did you know that specific shapes seen in dance companies are often based on this prerequisite? For example, Due to anatomical demands (not aesthetic) of pointe work it is NOT safe for a student with flat feet to dance en pointe, therefore; you won’t see a dancer with flat feet working professionally. Also, I’m saddened that you still haven’t mentioned the intense physical demands of a dancer, during your proclamation of a lack of weight diversity. I STRONGLY suggest you attend one of the many beginner Ballet classes across Canada, open to all shapes and sizes 😉 before speaking on this issue again.

    On a personal note, I have been discrimated against for both my body type and my career in the dance industry….I’m incredibly disheartened that you chose to target dancers who already face so many challenges; in turn I will now face more discrimination regarding my choosen profession. As a female, a dancer and a TTC user, I’m offended by this statement and everything this organization is doing to try to make SOME people confident!

    Please apologize to the dance community, instead of attempting to defend your position with statements that display a blatant lack of knowledge and understanding of Ballet, you only further insult this community by doing so!

  • Max_Taffey

    So much wrong with this that I scarcely know where to begin.
    First, this campaign represents a partnership between the TTC and the National Ballet of Canada (NBC), meaning its intent is to promote the TTC AND the NBC. I fail to see how the ballet could promote itself by providing models that don’t represent that organization.
    Second, you seem to think that the NBC selects its dancers based on their body type, and then teaches them to dance. Of course the fact is that ballet dancers begin their training at a very young age, and their body type is to a large degree acquired by engaging in the continuous rigour required to be at the very highest level. The rest is determined via genetics – the best female dancer in the world isn’t going to make the NBC if she suddenly has a growth spurt that ends at her being 6 feet tall. Can you see how expecting a dancer to hoist a 300lb performer into the air might be problematic?
    Maybe in a future campaign the TTC will partner with the Toronto Argonauts in ads that will feature 300lb. offensive lineman.

  • Gen

    What about any other sport? You’re going to tell us that the Leafs promote unrealistically muscular bodies and need to include normal guys who actually are not athletic enough at this point in their life to do it? Sports are sports. There are dance troups for all body types, it just so happens that they’re not all at the same level. Were you also bitching about the Olympics? Because they’re also small and lean and fit and muscular. How horrible is that.

    You are doing just as bad as fat shamers as you are doing body shaming with your incredibly ignorant comments. Being fat is ok. Being lean and muscular is ok. Enough with your body shaming.

    It’s horrible that you are making this about you. Shame on you.