“Tired of being fat & ugly? Hit the gym and just be ugly!”
The Canadian community center behind the message, displayed loud and proud on their marquee, insists it’s all in good fun, but Edmonton locals don’t seem to find the slogan very funny.
“That billboard really misses the mark,” Jessica Baudin-Griffin told InsideEdition.com.
The mom of two tween girls said she was taken aback when she first saw the sign on a way to a school, where she works.
“Children are seeing these messages … this type of messaging is potentially damaging their body image and it perpetuates this culture of body-shaming,” she told InsideEdition.com. “Yet it continues to be placed in an institution where children are directly across the street from that on a regular basis.”
The message was put up earlier this month on the marquee of Leefield Community League, a publicly funded community center, which Baudin-Griffin said was the main source of her concern.
“They’re expected to uphold [certain guidelines] to have a safe and inclusive community,” she said. “I don’t think it’s reflective of the entire community.”
She said when she asked her 13-year-old daughter what the sign meant, she replied “she felt as if it created a hostile environment.”
Baudin-Griffin took to Facebook with her concerns, uploading the photo to her page. It quickly went viral, with people both supporting her and disagreeing with her unease.
"My house is only a couple blocks away and I have to drive by this sign every. single. day. I go between raging and wanting to burst into tears," one person commented.
Another disputed that, saying, "I choose to laugh at it, while you choose to be offended by it. That’s why my life is more fun than yours."
Leefield Community League’s president and creator of the sign Wil Tonowski was one of those people who vehemently disagreed, saying it was never his intention to hurt or offend, rather brighten the public’s day with a funny message.
“The vast majority of people have told us that they love our signs, that they look forward to seeing the different messages that we post every week,” Tonowski told InsideEdition.com. “I genuinely feel sorry for those who choose to see all things in such a negative light and manner.”
He explained the community center is known for its “edgy” signs, and this message just happened to be one of them.
In fact, he said this sign was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek comment about himself.
“The reality is that the vast majority of us in western society are overweight and have been on diets on and off our entire lives. I’m one of them. So what? I'm fat. So what?” Tonowski said. “I myself am battling life-threatening cancer and am trying to face my own challenges with dignity, integrity and, most of all, [humor]. In my case, it helps a great deal.”