Questions To Consider
- What audience(s) is the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for?
- What is sexualization? How is it different from sexuality?
- What does Victoria’s Secret’s version of “hot” look like?
- How does showing one version of “sexy” affect real-world relationships?
- What is “cultural appropriation” and how is this an example?
- Do you think worse of your body when seeing Victoria’s Secret or other images like it?
What We Think
Victoria’s Secret: The store. The bras. The catalog. The fashion show. We really can’t escape its version of hotness. But when they take sexualization and mix it up with stealing from indigenous (native) cultures, it’s a cruel cocktail of wrongness.
Victoria’s Secret provides the quintessential sexualization experience. Sexualization: The act of turning a person into an object of another person’s sexual pleasure.
Yeah, yeah. They say that they pick women based on personality and not just appearance, but you’d better believe personality comes in a very distant … fifth.
On top of its encoded expectations of women’s and girls’ appearance, Victoria’s Secret seems to support stealing from other groups, too. The producers of the last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show decided to have a section dedicated to using indigenous cultures and art, and putting super tall, thin, busty, and sexualized models in that garb. They called it “Nomadic Adventure.”
The Victoria’s Secret PR team tried to downplay the theft by saying they wanted to “showcase the ‘beautiful, bold colors’…‘distinctive of Africa’s wildlife.’” To break it down: “showcase” means to put something on display, and Victoria’s Secret — definitely not an African company — decided that these African cultures (along with the women) were theirs to display. (And by the way, it wasn’t just African cultures — Native American regalia got totally misused too.) That’s called “cultural appropriation”.
In this day and age, cultural exchange is inevitable. And we’re all for that. Who wouldn’t be, when it means sharing our foods and traditions, and honoring the diversity of so many cultures — of course, when it’s done willingly. But “appropriation” isn’t done willingly because there is no consent from the originating culture. And usually, it’s members of a dominant culture who takes parts of another culture — of a group that has been actively oppressed by the mainstream.
In the case of Native Americans, mainstream culture often uses the headdress as a costume, while completely ignoring how sacred this item is to many peoples.
Seem unfair and hypocritical to you? Yeah, for us too.
And on top of that, they use this sacred symbol to further sexualize and objectify women.
In fact, Victoria’s Secret got so much backlash from folks (like you!) on social media that they issued a public apology. Hmm. What do you think? Is it enough or too little, too late? Let them know by taking action.
— Jennifer Berger and Hénia Belalia
Where We Saw It
CBS and CBS All Access, November 28, 2017