Angels for A Capitalist Agenda: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

LIFESTYLE-BRITAIN-US-FASHION-VICTORIAS SECRETBy Isabel Aurichio

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.

1-800-YouDoYou: Examining Drake’s “Hotline Bling”

Original Print“Although Drake’s “Hotline Bling” can be interpreted as counter-hegemonic due to its allusions to female empowerment and male sensitivity, the song still caters to a dominant masculine narrative that relies on the subordination of female sexuality. This project attempts to explore and disentangle these conflicting messages while recognizing the potential of this song to become a space in which feminist discourse and contemporary hip-hop can coexist.”
—Jade Frost, Mari Young, Charlie Britton, and Nora Teter (Block 5 2016)

“The original cover art for ‘Hotline Bling’ consists of a pink square with the text ‘1-800-HOTLINEBLING‘ written ten times consecutively. The simplicity of the italicized white writing creates a unique aesthetic and therefore distinctive impression.”

“Implicitly, his argument is that she was better off with him, despite the fact that the song is about his yearning for control over her. Here, one could argue that the promotion of male sensitivity is resistant to dominant gender ideologies; yet, the promotion of male sensitivity in the song perpetuates problematic themes, such as slut shaming and controlling male behavior […] The lyrics paint Drake as obsessed with the fact that he is no longer exuding the same degree of control over this woman; yet in the video, he is deliberately depicted as enthusiastically happy, comical even, dancing, and ‘feeling himself.'”

New Print“With ‘1-800-YOUDOYOU,’ we are feeding into the postfeminist mantra by arguing that women have the ‘choice’ to feel empowered in doing whatever they want, but we feel as though we could have delved deeper to question the notion of choice in our print component.”

“It is clear in the original text that Drake is not ‘stressed out,’ because he is lonely and single—instead, he is ‘down’ because his ex-lover is acting in a manner that he deems unsuitable and outside the ‘good girl’ narrative that he tries to impose on her: ‘wearing less’ and ‘going out more.’ This is why we chose to reflect real remorse (both visually and verbally), as well as demonstrate female liberation in the absence of the victimization of a male as well as told from the male perspective.”

Get Off the Stage, Postfeminists!: Empowerment, Agency, & Pleasure in The To-Do List

Original Print“While some reviewers argue that the representation of femininity in [The To-Do List] inverts the typical coming-of-age narrative, this belief is predicated on the misconceived notions of postfeminism […] a majority of scholars concerned with gender and sexuality in media argue postfeminism has only driven ‘a wedge within women’s movement itself, further exacerbating pre-existing rifts concerning what goals feminists should pursue and how those pursuits should be enacted'” (Petersen 344).
—Alexandra Appel, Corrina Leatherwood, Michael Sorensen, and Eboni Statham (Block 5 2016)

“The specific, explicit thoughts in Brandy’s brain emphasize that she has internalized the typical sexual regime—a hypersexuality that, according to Gail Dines, is ‘generic, formulaic, and plasticized. It is a sexuality that has its roots in porn and is now so mainstream it is fast becoming normalized’ (439).  The lack of context and other characters further demonstrate that Brandy’s porn-based sexual agenda is practiced independently and free from external pressures.”

“The film perpetuates the idea that sex is not for female pleasure. It features problematic portrayals of consent, and exploits the dichotomy of the inexperienced/experienced—the virgin/whore. These important details and recurring themes are overlooked in many analyses and further position The To Do List as rampant with postfeminist thought, which Dara Persis Murray describes as an ideology with a focus on ‘self-surveillance, monitoring and discipline; a focus upon individualism, choice and empowerment'” (287).

New Print“In our new poster, we represented Brandy as a complex individual with a multifaceted personality, while maintaining sexual thoughts albeit to a lesser degree. In this representation, Brandy is neither traditionally good nor bad, and the pornographic sexual acts in Brandy’s brain have been replaced with terms pertaining to global issues, professional success, drug experimentation, family, and sex.”

“The remake attempts to focus more on Brandy’s overall contentment with whatever level of experience she does have, depicting her less as an individual obsessed with acquiring sexual knowledge and more of a young woman comfortable with herself and open to sexual encounters. Still, with the necessary components of consent, sexual safety, and mutual respect. Her sexual quests are not dramatized or framed in an academic sense but more so as a way for her to experience her own pleasure on her own terms.”

Wave: A Fem Rag

Wave

Created by Kadesha Caradine (Editor), Nitika Reddy (Editorial Assistant), Kali Place (Journalist), Sam Stallings (Journalist), and Laura Cutlip (Graphic Designer) during Block 6 2015

Wave is a feminist rag that outfits Third Wave feminist ideology. Here at Wave, we try to make sure that we are as all-encompassing as possible, because we believe that inclusivity, as well as diversity, are two very important issues when it comes to Third Wave feminism. In our very first edition of Wave, we have decided to take on topics including body positivity and sex positivity, along with the looming question, “Should men be included in feminism?” Our plan is to shed light on feminist topics in a way that is empowering and productive in our advancement for the equal opportunity of women.”
—Kadesha Caradine, Editor

Click here to read Wave: A Fem Rag!