By Lauren Robinson (’18)
Recently, Victoria’s Secret changed one of their advertisement taglines from “The Perfect Body” to “A Body for Every Body.” It took over 16,000 signatures on a petition in the U.K. and string of impassioned responses by citizens across the globe to drive this popular lingerie company to oust their intensely body-shaming ad campaign. However, the campaign is not over. The “perfect body” posters still hang in the Victoria Secret stores. Even more, they did not actually change much about the ad. The simply changed the white text on top of the pictures of the stick-thin, glossy models—who remained in the background.
Additionally, Victoria’s Secret entirely disregarded the influence of the citizen’s vigorous campaign on their decision to change the text. They proudly claimed that they were the ones to realize the advertisement was overtly body-shaming many women and that they made the executive decision to change it to something more inclusive. While “A Body for Every body” seems inclusive, it does not match what is behind it: the same perfectly airbrushed women presenting society’s homogenous definition of beauty.
What is Victoria’s Secret trying to convey to its costumers with an advertisement about “The Perfect Body” with ten flawless, playful women in the background? They are presenting a narrow-minded definition of beauty and constituting exactly who is allowed to wear their lingerie. All of these models have similar body types, hair styles, excessively made-up faces, sexy smirks and shiny skin tones. This advertisement lacks diversity, even though the costumers who shop at Victoria’s Secret have an extensive array of body types and appearances. According to Chris Jordan in “Marketing ‘Reality’ to the World: Survivor, Post-Fordism and Reality Television,” media “must be able to attract large numbers of people” (519), and it must “attract the ‘right’ kinds of people” (519). Hence, the average customer would be expected to main this image of “perfection” to be able to shop there.
Victoria’s Secret is limiting their range of costumers by plastering perfect, unattainable bodies onto their ads and claiming that with the “perfect body,” there would be a “perfect fit” with “perfect comfort” that is “perfectly soft.” Having the “perfect body,” of course, is the prerequisite for these luxuries. Instead of attracting costumers—as their intention must be as a large-scale business—Victoria’s Secret is driving the women who do not flaunt this certain type “perfect” body away and perpetuating the idea that women need a “perfect body” to shop for nice lingerie and feel sexy.
Not only will Victoria Secret’s new and old ad campaign drive costumers away, it may influence individuals, such as young women and girls, to conform to their perception of what is beautiful and “perfect.” Projecting this image of unattainable, sexy beauty onto a society of natural-looking women is lethal. It implies that beauty is something that is reserved for a select few individuals, who must work absurdly hard to maintain their physique and appearance. Furthermore, customers should not be working to fit into a “perfect” mold to be able to shop at one store. In “Television and the Domestication of Cosmetic Surgery,” Sue Tait notes that “the implication is that the physical appearance of candidates does not reflect who they “truly” are” (557). Victoria Secret’s ad focuses solely on the aspects of an individual that do not emphasize character, personality, intelligence or any other valuable internal qualities. Although Tait is referring to altering ones body surgically, the same motivation and negative emotions towards oneself can be found in trying to attain a perfect “Victoria’s Secret-esque body.”
In “The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media,” Stuart Hall claims that “In modern societies, the different media are especially important sites for the production, reproduction and transformation of ideologies” (105). It is within the realm of advertisements—both the outrageous first body-shaming one and the “more inclusive” second one—in which Victoria’s Secret allows negative ideologies regarding our appearances as females to concretely form.