Fashion Show Muddles Victoria’s Secret’s Message

By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer

Every February, a debate resurfaces regarding the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. While fans of the brand, models, an performers are elated to hear the themes and entertainment, others are outraged by what they believe to be the objectification of women and promotion of the “skinny norm.”
Much of the controversy stems from the use of incredibly slim models who do not look like most average Americans. Some fans feel underrepresented or completely unrepresented in the store’s market, which seems to cater toward the slimmer, skinnier clientele. According to their website, Victoria’s Secret carries sizes extra-small to extra-large as well as bra sizes 30AA to 40DDD. The American average bra size is 34DD. For those not familiar with to bra sizes, 34DD is close to the end of the Victoria’s Secret spectrum.
Most women with 34DD breasts are not as small as the models who walk in the show and that is completely fine, but many people think that Victoria’s Secret parading incredibly skinny women in front of those who are not may make them feel inadequate. This is definitely a possibility as this does start to reinforce the skinny norm which can lead to not only viewers feeling inadequate but could make them feel as though they need to drop weight in order to look like the models which may be harmful for them.
While it seems like Victoria’s Secret is pushing this norm, it also cannot photoshop these models in real time like it can in ads. Their bodies are still real bodies and not the perfect portrayals we see in print and online. These models still have cellulite and stretch marks which is right there on display, but not in focus.
While these models are slimmer than the average woman, they can still face the same body issues like stretch marks and cellulite and may feel the same pressures to be skinny that others feel, if not more so. The supposed new norm that was created can be harmful across the board but it is doubtful that that was Victoria’s Secret’s intention.

Jasmine Tookes Victoria's Secret Show London 2014
Jasmine Tookes Victoria’s Secret Show London 2014

If Victoria’s Secret were to expand its line to encompass more of the real women or use more full-figured models in the show, it would show that it is not trying to force a new normal on their fans. If Victoria’s Secret offered a fuller range of models, there would be an opportunity for more people to celebrate their bodies and femininity, which seems like an underlying goal of the show even if it is not broadcasted as such.
The supposed focus of the show is to showcase the company’s new line of lingerie, but the focus remains on their bodies.  This is not something that will change by making the models less skinny models and using more real women.
The sad truth is that people are going to objectify these women by their bodies no matter what. These models are no longer seen as Karlie or Candice but instead as breasts or legs walking toward the viewers. That is how we can speak so freely about their body sizes. It would be crude to say, “Karlie is too skinny,” as that is a direct attack on her body.
Instead, we make generalizations about the models as a whole so that we feel it is easier to talk negatively about them as it does feel like we are talking about people as much though we still are.
Aside from not viewing the models as people in respect to talking about their body shape, some people take it even farther and make sexual remarks about them thinking that others would support their claims and that no one would mind if it were to be said. Almost all of this talk is done online as they assume the models will not be scouring the corners of Reddit or 4Chan, or even the comment sections on People magazine articles, to see what is said about them. That does not dismiss the inappropriateness of the comments.
Though the models are walking around in underwear for most of the duration of the fashion show, that does not mean that they invite lewd remarks about their bodies. The gross objectification that they are subjected to should not be tolerated but when so many voices are added all saying the same thing, it is hard to silence them.
It is an unfortunate reality that this will continue to happen as long as there are lingerie fashion shows such as the Victoria’s Secret one. Only when we stop objectifying women and seeing them as body parts rather than people will we be able to fully enjoy and celebrate such displays. However, the objectification is not the only issue, as there are still many people who believe that the show only celebrates the skinnier body types and is exclusionary.
No matter what side someone were to lean toward, Victoria’s Secret does not intentionally set the stage for the objectification of women or propose that one body standard is more favorable to another.

One thought on “Fashion Show Muddles Victoria’s Secret’s Message

  1. We sexualize the human body because we are sexual creatures. Both genders participate in this ritual of attraction and mating. Different cultures more highly prize different looks, and those tastes change over time. To imply that we can rise above it is to imply that we are not human. A mostly naked human will cause a biological reaction in suitable mates. If you think this reaction is limited to skinny women, perhaps you should spend more time researching 4Chan and Reddit to see the multitude of flavors preferred by the human condition – from the “Dad Bod” to the “MILF”. From the ‘BBC’ to the ‘BBW’.
    If you most ‘protest too much’, then protest in meaningful manners – don’t watch, don’t buy, don’t patron. How simple can it be?

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