I have a little secret; I shop at Victoria’s Secret. Like many of my friends, I participate in the 7 for $27 panties deal that pops into my email inbox every other month and I profess that wearing a Victoria’s Secret bra makes me look, and feel, confident. But I have another secret; I don’t like their latest advertisement campaign, the one that has already become notorious as the “Perfect Body” ad.
While Victoria’s Secret usually keeps its extreme sexuality within the confines of the bedroom, the “Perfect Body,” as released in October of 2014, ignores all pretenses of privacy that the company claims to hold. Meant to sell the company’s new line of bras, the ad juxtaposes a photo of ten extremely thin models overlaid with the “Perfect Body” slogan which suggests that the women are perfect, not the bra. I, along with my fellow feminists and Victoria’s Secret customers, were outraged with the ad’s implications that there is only one body type and that the only perfect body type is that of the featured models. We took to Twitter and Change.org to request that the company change its ad.
Although Victoria listened, changing the slogan to read “A Body for Every Body,” this action only occurred online, not in stores. In response, the underwear company Dear Kate created their own advertisement featuring ten models of all different races, ethnicities, and body types whose features are often, according to the Dear Kate website, “neglected by the media and traditional retailers,” with the text “The Perfect Body” covering their bodies.
While people continue to shop at Victoria’s Secret, many feminists have argued that the lingerie super-chain’s small concession is not enough and that the new ad still promotes a negative body image. This is problematic for young girls, especially with the prevalence of anorexia in today’s society and the already omnipotent pressure to be thin.
Victoria’s feels as if she is promoting a different image of the company. Gracie Nichols, the current CEO of the company has remarked that “every woman should look and feel sexy,” not just the ones in their advertisements. The company would say its bras are meant to make women feel confident in their own bodies, and their advertisements are intended to appeal to women on those grounds. Dee Amy-Chinn, a scholar on the subject of feminism and advertising, says that if done effectively, there is certainly power in sexualizing a female in advertisements for themselves, not in relation to the male gaze. In this sense, Victoria’s Secret is tailored towards the wearer herself, just as the company hopes.
Victoria’s Secret has successfully abandoned the advertising tactic of the male gaze, or creating advertisements just for men to look at, but has yet to tackle the problem of diversifying the body types of models in their advertisements. The skinny body type that the “Perfect Body” and subsequent “A Body for Every Body” ads seem to promote has begun to be internalized by Americans, especially young girls who feel that they must lose weight in order to look like the models they see. The advertising structure of Western societies has capitalized on and continues to take advantage of these insecurities, indoctrinating the public into glorifying specific physical traits. Although through time, each generation sees its own versions and additions to the list of demands for bodily perfection, thinness has persisted as the ultimate beauty standard. This unrealistic body image isn’t just present in young girls; average women increasingly covet it as well.
Based on the enormous negative consumer reaction to the “Perfect Body” ad, Victoria’s Secret may well have realized that it’s finally time to consider a different strategy. Throughout the years, the gap between the bodies of idealized women, as featured in the Victoria’s Secret ad, and everyday people has grown. The difference between models’ weights and the average weight of the female American public has increased and currently sits at 23% compared to 8% in 1975.
If Victoria’s Secret hopes to continue to be a force in the world of female lingerie with female consumers, the company has a tremendous opportunity by changing its advertising. Since they have the power to change the ideal image of beauty through repeated exposure in advertisements, if Victoria’s Secret were to include women of all sizes, as the Dear Kate ad did, the public would begin to equate all body types with the “ideal body” type. Manufacturing bras size 30AA to 40DDD, Victoria’s Secret already creates bras for almost anyone. If their ads also expressed this universality, the company would not be enmeshed in the controversy it is today. So join me in wearing that leopard print Angel Demi Push-up bra and feel sexy and confident, but recognize that changes must be made and we have the power to make them.
Amy-Chinn, Dee. “This Is Just for Me(n): How the Regulation of Post-feminist Lingerie Advertising Perpetuates Woman as Object.” Journal of Consumer Culture 6.2 (2006): 155-75. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
Bahadur, Nina. “It’s Amazing How Much The ‘Perfect Body’ Has Changed In 100 Years.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
Black, Frances, Kountourides, Gabriella, and Ferris, Laura. “Apologise for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range ‘Body.’” 23 Oct 2014. Brown, Genevieve Shaw. “Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign Draws Social Media Outrage.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
“Dear Kate.” Dear Kate. N.p., 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
Morabito, Kristia. “Victoria’s Secret Uncovered.” Drexel University: Journal of Culture & Retail Image 4.1 (2011): n. pag. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://services.library.drexel.edu/static_files/dsmr/Morabito%20Final.pdf>.
“Size & Fit: Bras.” Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.