To date, I’ve had two Victoria’s Secret bras. I was under 20 years old each time.
As a kid, whenever I’d see the store as I walked with my mom through the mall, I giggle a little bit, believing such a place was only for REAL adults with REAL bodies.
And when I became a teen, I’d lurk inside the store feeling like I was a trespasser ogling at the mannequins and posters of women in scantily clad pieces effortlessly poised and ready for….sleep? A party? The beach? I have no idea. But they looked HOT!
“This is what is sexy.” I would say to myself as I’d pry a thinly manufactured bra over my shoulders, cutting into the chubby skin of my ribs and back, hoisted just so much that my boobs would pillow out.
I assumed comfort was the cost of beauty. Aint it so, ladies? About a month in, the bra didn’t hold up for me nor did my idea of what it meant to be sexy.
Fast forward: You walk into a VS now and it’s a bizarre combination of a cutesy Katy Perry music video and Hustler cover magazine. The image of over sexualized tween bodies, perfume that wreaks of cotton candy, glitter everything, ruffles and little girl pink in candy stripes – it all SELLS.
Who are they marketing to? Young women with disposable income. And it’s the fantasy of perpetuating supple, nubile youth that is so warped.
Lolita is a multi-billion dollar industry because there is a gap in how women’s identity is taught – we’re forever encouraged to remain in a state of adolescent innocence but develop the body of a centerfold.
In the UK, a recent Victoria's Secret add declared their bra as The Perfect “Body” with a line-up of classic VS babes with shimmering, toned skin and bedroom-ready faces. We’ve become so used to this image of women, but something about THIS ad crossed the line.
It’s almost like the marketers went out of there way to answer “How can we totally ignore the huge cultural trend happening that wants to see more bodies of diverse shape?”
Women in the UK got mad, signed petitions and a back-lash is underway. About time? Or just a flutter of momentary upset, then business as usual in another few months?
Big companies like VS know they can do idiotic things because it gets attention and sadly, they don’t care about what adult buyers are thinking.
VS and so many of these damaging ad campaigns are not for us older women – they are for our daughters, or children, our grandchildren, nieces, little Suzy in your son’s 8th grade math class.
These images are designed to instill a belief from very young that THIS is what being a woman is really like. These images are meant to tell them “You look like this, you’ll have the world!”
I’m an optimist. I’m an idealist. I’m for democratic virtues and truly, honestly believe that people who give a damn can change the world. But I’m also pragmatic and understand REAL change happens in the dregs of very small, monotonous detail and action.
So it’s pointless for us older women to yammer back and forth to each other and scold a finger only at VS and then turn our heads to the next outrage to scorn. We’re not the ones VS is after – they don’t make clothing for our bodies, we get that.
But it’s not OK for our girls. These store which promote unobtainable body-image quests become a type of currency in a world where that’s the only power kids can achieve – what they look like and how they dress to their peers.
But if we want these ads to not work, we need to tell our young ladies that their bodies are not only good for a sun-glistened line-up. That the words “JUICY” across the ass will haze ZERO impact on the quality of their lives, and that celebrity and entertainers are not role-models, they are simply circus clowns with A LOT of money.
We have to provide appropriate alternatives that balance the desire to look cool (who doesn’t?) but also respects their bodies and good, natural pieces of the WHOLE of them.
And that takes a lot more than finger waging at large companies – change is achieved in the grass, not on the mountaintop.
It was really hard growing up in a large body 15 years ago and I can only image that’s gotten harder now for tweens and young ladies. So instead of just attacking the companies, they are really the last point, we need a truly honesty re-boot of how we talk to young women (and men!) about their bodies, sexuality and how respect propels you much further than the latest clothing trend sold to them from a money-hungry industry.
How to start? Just have a frank conversation with one or two young women in your life. They’ll tell you way more about what they really need and maybe you can help them.