TTC & The National Ballet of Canada’s Joint Campaign Falls Short : What About Body Diversity?
“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?
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 change.org/SizeismSUCKS 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