Every time a bell rings, a (Victoria’s Secret) angel gets its wings

Rather than being “fashionable,” the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is a throwback to an era where women were valuable merely as decorations.

If every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, then a lot of bells must have been ringing on Tuesday evening.

The Victoria’s Secret “fashion” show aired on CBS Tuesday night. It was a glittery, glamorous hour filled with beautiful “angels” walking the runway in lingerie, heels, and feathery, glittery fantasy wings. You can’t deny that the women and the outfits were beautiful confections, perhaps even works of art in some cases. One model even wore a $2.5-million dollar bra for a turn on the runway while Maroon Five played “Moves like Jagger.”

The show featured themes like “superhero”, “ballet”, and “Club Pink.” I was waiting for “hungry”, but perhaps that’s just me.

One of the models has been very public about not eating any solid food for the nine days leading up to the show. Maybe every time a bell rings a Victoria’s Secret model should get a cheeseburger?

Seriously, I like sexy panties and bras as much as anyone and I make no apologies for it. I find the models in the Victoria’s Secret show to be beautiful and no doubt extremely confident. I look nothing like them, and I realize that is OK.

But watching this show made me think back to all of the Miss America pageants I watched growing up. To a 10-year-old girl, it seemed so desirable to have that crown placed on your head. It was a fantasy to be sure, but one that, even then, I knew was obtainable if only you met certain qualifications.

As a girl who liked to read while lying on her bed eating entire packages of soda crackers, alas, it was not to be. That never stopped me from dreaming about the fantasy, even though it always made me feel like I was less than perfect.

Thankfully I’m not that Miss America pageant-watching little girl anymore. Even though it’s touted as a fashion show, there is nothing fashionable about the Victoria’s Secret show. It’s a throwback to a pre-feminism era where women were good only insofar as they were decorative and perhaps, useful and desirable to men. Thank goodness this show didn’t occur in 1955, because Mrs. Cleaver would have had to iron the Beaver’s shirts while wearing a pair of bejeweled wings.

I think what bothered me the most was the footage of the models hanging out and looking at photos of their younger selves. Besides walking the glittery catwalk in glammed-up, bejeweled bras, panties, and corsets, they showed the models ooohing and aaahing over photos of each other as girls. I’m sure it was meant to be touching and real to see them share pictures and stories of how they used to play soccer until, wait for it, they discovered boys! Giggle.

Was this a sneaky effort to make it more appealing to the skeptics, an attempt to connect with the women and the girl? It seems a given that this show is ultimately aimed at heterosexual men. The televised show pulled in approximately 10.3 million viewers, which would indicate that a lot of women are going to find silky underthings under the tree this year.

As an adult, I get it. But like a young me watching Miss America, the 10-year-olds in Kansas and Tennessee watching this show aren’t thinking Marketing 101, they are simply learning that their value is ultimately in how they look and that to be worthy, they can’t be anything other than one very narrowly defined physical ideal.

The cynic in me can also imagine the conference room where they discuss getting female customers when they’re 10, so that they’ll get their money when they’re 14 and buying their first bra.

It bears mentioning here that just a year or so ago, Lane Bryant caused a major uproar when a commercial of a larger women dancing around her bedroom in her bra and panties while getting ready for a date was deemed obscene by Fox and ABC, both of which air Victoria’s Secret ads that are at least as racy.

At best, this smacks of size discrimination, and at worst, the narrow definitions by which women are expected to confirm in order to be admired or valued. Let’s not even get into the lack of shows that have men strutting their stuff wearing thongs. Where are the male angels?

It’s interesting how much attention was given to the actual wings; how they are conceived and made by hand over many months. I’ve been seeing news stories for the past couple of weeks just on the wings and preparation for this show. I learned that not all the models even get to wear the wings. After doing the show a few times, when the model finally gets to be an angel and is “awarded” wings, it’s considered a major accomplishment for her.

Here’s a radical thought: I think we all deserve wings. As women, we accomplish a million things the world over. We have the babies, we cook and clean the houses, we work at jobs and careers, we take care of our elderly parents, we go to school, we maintain friendships, we recycle, we try to do what we can to help the world even though we know we may not be able to single handedly solve world hunger. We are all angels and we should all have wings.

This holiday season, every time a bell rings, let’s simply tell ourselves that we are all perfect and angelic just the way we are, and let’s make sure we tell the young girls and women in our lives the same thing.

If you’d like to tell Victoria’s Secret what you think about their “fashion” show, you can email them here. Find out how to write a great complaint letter.


5 thoughts on “Every time a bell rings, a (Victoria’s Secret) angel gets its wings

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  1. This is a well written article by the author. I don’t agree on all points made in it, but I can understand some, though it’s quite dramatic. I was sad I wasn’t chosen to help write for this site. Some different pov is much needed on women, media, and pop culture, but oh well.

  2. Great article. I wrote about this “fashion show” earlier this week and hold a similar point of view.

    I agree that young girls (who should be in bed at 10PM) and watch this show look to these frail women walking down the runway as inspiration. I didn’t think about the juxtapostion of the models looking at pictures of their younger selves paired with what they are doing now, but that is good food for thought.

    As for the models in the show, very few of us look like them and why should we? Most are barely into their twenties if at all and are almost six feet tall. I don’t fault the models for looking like they do…perhaps that is just how they are built. After all we do all know those people that can eat anything and still remain rail thin!

  3. Points are well made, but I wish you wouldn’t have watched it and increased the ratings! :-/

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