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In Defense of that Peloton Ad

I’ll love you forever if you buy me a Peloton


Admittedly, I hadn’t seen the Peloton ad until I got an email about its backlash. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can watch it here. If you can't be bothered, I’ll break it down. In the ad, a very thin (alternatively very fit) woman is gifted a Peloton bike for Christmas and her yearlong fitness journey is chronicled. The woman says, “I didn’t realize how much this would change me.” It’s safe to say that Peloton had no idea how much this would change [for] them either.


Last week, Business Insider reported a 15% plunge of Peloton’s stock, which translates to a $1.5 billion dollar loss. Not quite the Christmas present Peloton was hoping for, but they stood by their ad. A company rep said, “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by -- and grateful for -- the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” Hopefully the 8+ million views the ad has already amassed on YouTube alleviates some of the lost revenue. 


The majority of the backlash focuses on the ad’s “sexism.” That a husband gifting his wife a piece of workout equipment can only mean he’s dissatisfied with her figure and the bike is a not-so-subtle push for her to get in shape. Many of the ad’s haters refer to her as already being “rail-thin” and that her yearlong fitness journey is merely dropping from 116 to 112 pounds. 


But even if some of that is true, so what? Who are we to judge anyone’s fitness journey? Isn’t the entire point of body positivity or a wellness journey is that there is no right way. That ultimately what matters is just doing it. How we get there or even what there is is nobody’s business. The woman in the ad likely didn’t get to her starting weight by just sitting around eating donuts. Instead, despite her busy grind of a life, she managed to get to the gym or a class every day. And the added commute to or from the gym cut into their already limited couple time so her husband cut out the middle man and thoughtfully gave her an opportunity to get a killer workout right in their living room. 


While I am not “rail-thin,” I am obsessed with fitness. There isn’t a class, a craze or a piece of gym equipment I haven’t tried, loved, become obsessed with, did every day for weeks or needed to get a membership for. The problem is, most of the classes or memberships are obscenely expensive. The Peloton bike alone will run you $2,245 with an additional $39/monthly membership fee for access to the classes. So unless you’re making beaucoup bucks, you’re likely not getting a Peloton.


There was no greater or more thoughtful present than the year my parents got me a month unlimited at my local yoga studio. Were they fat shaming me? Nudging me to lose a few pounds? Please. Those thoughts never even crossed my mind. Instead, I was too busy being thankful for a gift I loved but couldn’t afford myself.


The bulk of the remaining backlash centers around the woman’s “fear”. Check here, here and here. This is a laughable reach. Everyone is nervous the first time they take a new class. Or do anything for the first time. You don’t know what to expect, don’t know how you’ll perform and in this new trend of knowing exactly where you fall on the class’s leaderboard, if you’re anything like me, ill-equipped for being anything other than first/top burner. And guess what? The shot immediately following this alleged “first class fear” face, shows her bursting through the door, kicking off her work shoes (presumably to get right onto the bike) and proudly announcing she’s now completed five days in a row. The next shot is another 6 am workout, which means she’s less than 12 hours out from her last workout, aka something to celebrate not lambast. With a big smile she says, “That was totally worth it.” A feeling of victory she earned, not by being forced, but by putting in the work. 


Peloton released an ad of one woman’s fitness journey. A journey where she discovered her love of riding, her ability to commit to something and a dedication to bettering herself. Notice how not one of these things has anything to do with her weight or her size. Because this is a journey that is universal. How is what the critics’ are saying any different than what they’re rallying against? They are body shaming (because she’s thin/fit her fitness journey is less important or meaningful than someone else’s?) and perpetuating sexism (by insisting that there is only one motivation behind the husband’s gesture in this ad). If you don’t like the ad, don’t watch. No one is forcing you. Let the woman ride her damn bike. 


This holiday season, if your husband/wife/significant other/relative gifts you with a Peloton, just say thank you. If not, I’ll happily take the bike off your hands.

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