Spanish government’s latest campaign featuring female bodies in different shapes, sizes and age-groups — to push out a message of body positivity and inclusivity on the beach — seems to have gotten mired in controversy, with a few women coming forward to claim they have become a part of the campaign without their knowledge or permission.
Last week, Spain’s Equality Ministry had launched the aforementioned summer campaign to encourage women to reject “stereotypes” and “aesthetical violence”. This was done to challenge the social pressure faced by many women who feel compelled to conform to certain beauty standards.
While the campaign was largely received as progressive and timely — what with them including photos of different body types, all of which deserve to be flaunted on the beach — it quickly turned problematic when some women, especially women of colour, came forward to claim their images were used in the advert without their consent.
According to a BBC report, one Juliet FitzPatrick — a cancer survivor, who has had a mastectomy — alleged that one of the women in the advert has been based on her. The 60-year-old said the face of a woman with mastectomy could be based on one of her pictures. She told the outlet that the body in the poster, however, was not hers, since the woman had one breast removed, while FitzPatrick has had a double mastectomy.
FitzPatrick told the BBC that what happened “seems to be totally against” the campaign theme. “For me it is about how my body has been used and represented without my permission.”
Interestingly, British photographer Ami Barwell — who had clicked a black and white photograph of FitzPatrick flaunting her surgery scars — told the outlet that the body in the poster was probably inspired by one of her other pictures of a woman. “I think that the person who created the art has gone through my gallery and pieced them together,” Barwell was quoted as saying, adding: “But without any clarification from the artist I can’t say for absolutely certain.”
Per the report, the campaign’s creator, Arte Mapache, has apologised for using these images without permission, but two other women who came forward to make similar claims said otherwise. Among them is plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams and Sian Green-Lord, who has a prosthetic leg, which has been edited out!
Nicholas-Williams wrote a lengthy social media post stating that she “won’t be quiet about this” and is “not even sorry”. “So the Spanish Government can only apologise to Juliet who is a white woman. But apparently Sian and myself don’t get one? Mmmm OK! They’ve also said in their ‘statement’ that they’ve reached out to all of us, they haven’t.”
Green-Lord also took to Instagram to write how she feels “extremely sad” about the situation. Sharing the original photo, she wrote, “This picture no longer represents me having a great time on my friends hen… Now this image just makes me feel extremely sad!”
“Since I found out last Friday what was done with my image, my confidence has been at an all time low with anxiety taking the highest place! My usual self-motivating tactics are failing me and I’m now left in a strange place!” she continued, adding: “My leg is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s a product of strength, resilience and independence.”
Per the BBC report, Arte Mapache’s apology note read, “Given the — justified — controversy over the image rights in the illustration, I have decided that the best way to make amends for the damages that may have resulted from my actions is to share out the money I received for the work and give equal parts to the people in the poster. I hope to be able to solve all this as soon as possible, I accept my mistakes and that is why I am now trying to repair the damage caused.”