Created by Nan Elpers (Journalist), Isabel Aurichio (Editorial Assistant), Caroline Olin (Journalist), Ryan McLauchlan (Journalist), and Jess Keniston (Graphic Designer)
“BANG! is a magazine created by and for femme and female-identifying individuals of college age, dedicated to providing a wide range of information about sex and sexuality. Among other things, BANG! seeks to sexually eduate, raise awareness about sexuality and consensual sex, and showcase the related work of feminist educators and activists, with the goal of empowering healthy and celebrated sex.”
—Nan Elpers, Editor
Click here to read BANG!Click here to read the full transcript from the interview with Dr. Bakari of Talking Trees!
“Although we concede that pageant parents have a direct role in the sexualization and objectification of their children, we believe that Toddlers and Tiaras still presents a particularly nasty and harmful image of motherhood. As we analyze the show’s original print advertisement and video alongside our own satirized versions, we will argue that TLC, as a creator of media, is responsible for perpetuating the problematic narratives of the demonized mother, the uncriticized father, and the bratty, hypersexualized toddler.”
—Isabel Aurichio, Daniel Feder-Johnson, Michaela Kahn, Sophie Mittelstadt, and Gabriel Rosenthal (Block 4 2016)
“As explained by Sut Jhally in The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Popular Culture, objectifying women leads to an increase in sexual assault and rape. Despite this, TLC actively advertises these dangerous aspects in an attempt to draw viewers in on various emotions ranging from disgust, interest, and thrill. However, by also pushing a narrative of the children’s innocence, TLC is partaking in a direct form of sexualization and objectification of children.”
“While the children on Toddlers and Tiaras may not adopt authoritative tendencies, the reversal of roles forces social responsibility onto the child, who is unable to access the resources to handle it. Meanwhile, it alleviates external pressure from the parent, allowing TLC to construct the adults as ‘just being crazy,’ and therefore inherently bad people, uninfluenced by oppressive social constructs and institutions.”
“In keeping with the theme of parental narcissism, the revised poster aims to combat the fetishization of young girls with an opposing image of Francis. He takes on the same childlike expression as the toddler from the original poster, thus reversing deeply ingrained gender roles … The poster combats naturalized ideas about how women and children should act. In the current media climate, only little girls can don pouty expressions and act bratty, even if they learned those behaviors from their parents.”
“In order to expose this problematic normalization of ‘mother blaming,’ we replaced the typical ‘mother’ character in our parody with a father (Francis), twisting the show from Toddlers and Tiaras to Daddies and Diamonds. By placing a father as the perpetrator of the stereotyped ‘pageant mother’ role, we are working to expose Toddlers and Tiaras viewers to the vilification of these mothers. In creating a pageant father who is neglectful, obsessed with winning, and massively self-absorbed, viewers are able to see how ridiculous and exaggerated these characters are, and begin to question the role of mothers and absence of fathers on the show.”
Victoria’s Secret has been gearing up for their 2016 fashion show all year. On Wednesday evening, the models strutted down the runway at the Grand Palais in Paris, one the fashion capitals of the world. The event gains a massive amount of media coverage every year, resulting large viewing audiences. This year, the show is expected to reach over 800 million people in more than 190 countries. With such a wide audience, Victoria’s Secret attempts to market their fashion show as an empowering experience for women all over the world. However, formulating female empowerment by portraying women as active, desiring sexual subjects not only encourages an objectification of women through the male gaze but also creates an expectation for women to enjoy their own objectification. The commonality of using hypersexualized “empowered” women in media and advertising is an extremely problematic post-feminist mantra that is used and abused over and over again in our modern capitalist society.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is marketed as an opportunity to view women that represent the pinnacle of western idealized beauty, setting a standard that is impossible for most women to meet, therefore encouraging women to “self-police” their appearance according to absurd standards. According to Olivier Rousteing, a renowned fashion designer who turned out for the event, the show includes “a wonderful mix of pop culture and fashion” (Isaac-Goize). He went on to note, “Here you have the most beautiful women in the world daring to show how powerful, sexy and confident women can be, in all their diversity” (Isaac-Goize). According to the thought process that fashion designers and promoters of the show want customers to buy into, feeling sexy should be something every woman is able to participate in. Victoria’s Secret offers women this opportunity through the consumers’ choice to purchase part of the fashion line. However, this discourse creates issues for women. As Rosalind Gill writes in “Supersexualize Me!,” “A notion of women as completely free agents who just ‘please themselves’ – does not serve feminist of cultural understandings well” (282). Gill goes on to note that, “the emphasis upon choice sidesteps and avoids all the important and difficult questions about how socially constructed ideals of beauty are internalized and made our own” (282). “Choice” therefore, is an illusion created by media and advertising to convince female consumers to participate in a society that actively sells and exploits a hyper-sexualized and exclusive female body.
Victoria’s Secret’s portrayal of the fashion show as an “empowering” experience ultimately works to convince potential customers that sexual objectification of oneself can give one power. However, this power is only able to reach the desires of heterosexual men. Edward Razek is the executive producer of the show and chief marketing officer of creative services at Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. According to him, “It’s a celebration of powerful women by powerful women who work very hard at what they do, live a healthy life and inspire legions of admirers. It speaks to diversity in a number of ways, as well as free-spiritedness” (Isaac-Goize). The idea of women’s power stemming from their sexual desire is a concept that has been determining female worth long before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show began. In Laurie Ouellette’s “Inventing the Cosmo Girl” Cosmopolitan’s editor-in-chief Helen Brown was quoted in 1962 saying, “Sex is a powerful weapon of a single woman in getting what she wants from life” (266). This attitude of treating sex as a commodity exchange limits female potential for upward mobility to relying on men by fulfilling their sexual desires and expectations. Therefore, Victoria’s Secret’s promotion of “female power” is not about the women at all, but instead stems from the idea that women hold sexual power over men, that can be taken advantage of through self-sexualization and objectification. In accordance with this attitude towards female power, Ouellette mentions, “Expenditures on clothing, cosmetics, and accessories were presented as necessary investments in the construction of a desirable self” (262). By buying into the Victoria’s Secret franchise, women have the opportunity to dress up their full feminine potential with lace, ribbon, and sparkle.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show reinforces unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies and reduces them to sex objects while veiling this agenda under the disguise of “female empowerment.” Unfortunately, this is a common marketing strategy adopted by modern media and advertising to further capitalistic agendas. Although mega-corporations like Victoria’s Secret are not going to give up this strategy despite the negative effects it has on its target customers, it is important that consumers are able to recognize the manipulative way media tries to brand hyper-sexualization as harmless. By acknowledging this dangerous discourse, women can alleviate their own self-critical gaze while continuing to fight back against the omnipresent male-gaze that media also relies on.
This video, written and produced by Maitreyi Menon, Isabel Aurichio, and Judy Fisher during the First-Year Experience (FYE) section of FG110 Introduction to Feminist & Gender Studies at Colorado College during Block 1 2016, explores constructions of gender in comic culture.