Down with the Victoria’s Secret “Fashion Show”

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.

10 thoughts on “Down with the Victoria’s Secret “Fashion Show”

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  1. Jennifer, thank you so much for this amazing shout out to our post and our work! You are wonderful. We love About-Face and are so grateful for your support. THANK YOU!

  2. M sad because I use the VS store to show my girls there are pretty cotton underwear that’s feminine not sexy and they have great sweat pants&pjs.

  3. It is so refreshing to hear this. I cannot express how important this article is to me. It was so hard to scroll through my twitter feed and see so many of my friends negatively reflecting or hating on their self image because of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. This, along with the Beauty Redefined article, will be great ways to show them that they do not have to feel that way. Thank you so much for this!

  4. There are so many things wrong with this article. I am just sitting here shaking my head. But then again, this website does that to me a lot.

    What I think is the main problem with this world, is that with the secularisation of society, (and no, I am not a holier than thou christian..), the general perception of responsibility has shifted away from the individual to the collective, and this has been perfect breeding ground for an entitlement- and blame-culture.

    So now we live in a society, where forks, spoons, McDonalds adverts and the fact that biscuits and chocolate are in abundance and too accessible, make people fat. As well as genetics and metabolism, and bone structure. But never “I am fat because I eat a lot”.

    We live in a society where guns are responsible for killing people and my employer is responsible if I don’t pay attention and slip on a piece of paper on the floor in the office.

    What a twisted, idiotic, retarded society is this? The moment my daughter will come and say to me that she has body issues because of the victoria’s secret’s show and because she sees thin women in papers and on the internet, I will know that I have failed on many levels. The first would be to bring her up in a way that her self esteem and self worth is not dependent on external factors, such as media and other people; and two, I would have failed to teach her the most important lesson of all time – you are responsible for yourself, and nobody else.

    It seems to me that the person who wrote this article failed to learn and understand either of these. Jennifer, I am really sorry, but can you not see how incredibly bizarre it is that the existence and marketing of a lingerie brand managed to play a part in damaging your self esteem? Can you, and everyone, just please start taking personal responsibility for your thoughts, actions and feelings? They are all your own. This page is supposed to be all about empowerment, no judgement and freedom – well the ultimate freedom is if you are complete as a whole and free to own your own choices, reactions and feelings.

    If your online rage would ever manage to shut down Victoria’s Secret or succeeded in changing them, you would just find something or someone else to blame for your own lack of self worth because , I’m sorry, the problem is not in them, it’s in you, for letting them influence your world.

    Sorry for having been a bit harsh. But hopefully some of it hits home. And if not, well, that’s life.

  5. Hi Erika — The tone of your reply is pretty cruel but I’ve tried to take your points on their own merits despite it. I fully agree that we all need to take responsibility for our self-esteem, and I have done so, which is why I didn’t let Victoria’s Secret ruin my life or damage my self-esteem (did I even say it did?). About-Face advocates for us all to resist these types of messages and bolster our own positive body images and self-esteem, even if our parents didn’t do that with/for us. One post isn’t going to get that through, but it’s what we do. I truly hope your daughter does never have body image problems and that you are able to prevent those in her. But you may find that the culture (in addition to parenting) is extremely powerful, as we have.

    Thanks for giving so much time and attention to this post and thinking it through.

  6. Since VS sells their clothing up to size 16, why can’t they have a plus size model as one of their angels? She would represent the average women that buy VS clothes.

  7. This is completly wrong in MANY WAYS. Victoria secret has many things for young girls and young adults. Being thin and having a good body doesnt protray any type of “sexuality”. If you flant your body in other ways then thats something else. Stupid article. LOLLL!!!!!

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