At About-Face, we are boycotting the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which airs tonight on CBS. We’re joining in with the awesome women at Beauty Redefined, who are starting the boycott.
Here’s something I still find kind of embarrassing: Victoria’s Secret was a key ingredient in the damaging of my body image as a teenager. I bought the whole story — hook, line, and sinker. I got the catalog (the hundreds of catalogs!) at home as a 14-year-old. At 17, I bought the lacy underwear to wear for my boyfriend, thinking I was being “seductive”. (Let’s just say it wasn’t that great for the healthy development of my sexuality.)
I’m 38 years old now (I KNOW! 20 YEARS later!), and I still get triggered by the Victoria’s Secret catalog, fashion show, TV commercials, walking by the store, et cetera. And that’s pretty serious, considering I have taken many a women’s studies class and that I run an organization dedicated to positive body image and media portrayals of women. Almost nothing gets to me… Except the ol’ Victoria’s Secret objectification, a special brand that likes you to think it’s empowering you… So you will buy this bra and panties!
It hurts me even more to know that girls and women today are also buying Victoria’s Secret’s stories — literally (with money) and figuratively (with their emotions). We need to think over and get over the Victoria’s Secret influence. Let’s start by not watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Beauty Redefined has a brilliant article on its site right now that I truly hope you will read before you even read on in this article. The two PhDs who run the site and organization have laid it all out: Why Victoria’s Secret imagery teaches us to self-objectify, and why it’s worth resisting and boycotting. Here’s an excerpt.
To join the fight:
1. Speak up when others, in person or online, talk about [Victoria’s Secret] — whether they’re [Face]booking about how many meals they need to skip, or saying they wish their kids didn’t have to see the racy commercials. Any mention of [Victoria’s Secret] is a great opportunity to talk about media literacy (the ability to critically deconstruct and understand media messages) and the harms of self-objectification. Talking about objectification, especially ultra-prominent forms of it like [Victoria’s Secret], is key to denormalizing it and resisting it. Post this link under their comment. Introduce them to the powerful media literacy lessons at Beauty Redefined.
2. Recognize and resist feelings of body shame and tendencies to self-objectify. Consciously consider the times you are focused on what you look like, rather than fully focusing on whatever task is at hand. When we acknowledge our inclinations toward hiding, fixing, or flaunting our bodies in an attempt to gain power, we have the opportunity to make more empowered decisions as thinking, feeling, humans — not objects to be looked at.
3. Boycott the [Victoria’s Secret] brand and the [Victoria’s Secret] Fashion Show if you understand how harmful their marketing is. Do not seek out the images online or watch the perpetual media coverage of it afterward. Throw out the catalogs. Unsubscribe from their mailing lists. Plenty of other companies make excellent bras, underwear, and other lingerie and don’t use in-your-face objectification to sell them. If you do boycott [Victoria’s Secret], feel free to tell them why you’re doing so via [Facebook], Twitter, their website, etc. We doubt it will make a difference in their marketing (see: $5 billion annually), but it can’t hurt to let them know, especially publicly via social media.
So let’s get to it! Don’t watch that “fashion show”, do watch Twitter and send out body-friendly messages to those saying they dislike what they see because of the “fashion show”. And let us know in the comments how you feel afterward.
Jennifer Berger is About-Face’s Executive Director.