Thursday, December 12, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate: Victoria's Secret and Ugly, Jealous Women

Last night was the highly-anticipated annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the runway that in many ways sets the standard for "sexy" in America. As expected, my social media feeds flooded with statuses about the show-- or I should say, about the models. Not a single one of the posts was about the production or the garments; they were all about the women working the catwalk.

Most of the posts fell into two categories: adorers and "haters." Some of these people thought the models were absolutely stunning and some were unhappy with the how thin the models were. However, this one Instagram post really seemed to capture the theme of the conversations:
In case you can't read the text, it says "Hating on her makes you fat, ugly, miserable, and jealous." Indeed, across the board, those who were supporting the models weren't just saying, "they're pretty," but that if you don't like the models, it's because you're insecure. The idea behind this post is that women don't like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show simply because they are jealous of the models, not because they actually see something wrong (of course, we're women; we're incapable of thinking rationally).

This quote perfectly demonstrates everything wrong with the media's representation of female beauty. I refuse to watch the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. It's not because I'm jealous of these women or hate them. It's because I recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way beauty is portrayed, and it's not that the models are thin.

The problem with Victoria's Secret is that it sells an idea of what's sexy that is extremely limited. Yes, these women are beautiful. There's no doubt about it. But all of them are extremely thin, light-skinned (even the women who are not Caucasian, who are the overwhelming majority), and much taller than most women. The problem is not that they are these things, but that they are ONLY these things. 

There are no dark-skinned women. There are no short women. There are no bottom-heavy women or women with broader shoulders. Essentially, according the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (and most of the media), the only people who are sexy are tall, thin, fair-skinned women. THAT is a problem.

Let's go deeper: The problem with the tall, thin, fair-skinned model is that it is not attainable for the majority of the female population. As super model Cameron Russell said in her TED Talk, having the features to be a supermodel is basically hitting the "genetic lottery." So, why, then, is that the standard if it is anything but standard?

Because CAPITALISM, duh. 

Consumer culture relies on the purchase of commodities. People only buy commodities when they feel need. People with money typically are able to meet many of their physiological needs without spending much. How, then, do we get them to part with the excess? 

We create social need or fear. The media presents a standard of beauty, which is anything but standard, so that women purposefully feel dissatisfied and imperfect. And we use the words "sexy/beautiful" or "ugly"  and "confident" or "jealous" to foster this feeling. We create a fear of rejection and convince women that they are lacking, so that they will fill the void with things-- cosmetics, clothes, hair dye, skin bleach, laser hair removal, gym memberships.... lingerie. 

This should piss you off.

If doesn't, also think about the fact that with Victoria Secret's PINK line, this dislike of the self is being sold to young girls, not just women. And remember that studies show that girls as young as 9 years old now think that they are fat and need to go on diets.

And because, PATRIARCHY, duh.

And on top of the media broadcasting these images, the messages embedded within are internalized and shared. Men tells us that sexy is tall, thin, and fair-skinned. They circulate images of heavily photoshopped, unrealistically thin women (women who are photoshopped to look thinner when they are already underweight) who somehow magically still have large, symmetrical breasts and butts. Also, they don't have pores, lines, or cellulite. We have people of both sexes telling us that if we don't worship these women as the most beautiful women on earth, we're jealous.

When we don't buy into the standard, we are quite literally stripped of our voices-- called ugly and ignored. Ugly is basically a word for useless women in our patriarchal society. If you aren't aesthetically pleasing, you become ugly. But of course, now that you see how the media markets beautiful, you also understand that most women easily fall into the "ugly" category.

So, these standards of beauty not only make women feel unhappy and drive us to buy products (that are mostly produced and marketed by men), but also create a culture where it easy to suck the power from women by simply insinuating that those unable to meet the unrealistic standards of beauty are not worthy of notice, not capable of saying anything worthwhile. They're just "fat, ugly, miserable, and jealous."

And just saying....

we all know Victoria's multi-billion dollar secret now: Victoria was a man, Mr. Roy Raymond, and the store was created so men didn't feel humiliated when they wanted to buy lingerie for their ladies, not to make women feel sexy.

Are you angry yet?

You should be.


lenora kramer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aquarius Moon said...

There's nothing wrong with Victoria's Secret using gorgeous models. It's business and beauty sells. Being confident and truly loving one's body means not bitching about somebody else's.

Putting others down in order to make one feel better, or the Tall Poppy Syndrome, only reveals one's own thinly-veiled insecurities.

Nicole Papaioannou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole Papaioannou said...

I agree, Aquaris Moon, but I don't think you truly read my post.

The argument is not that there is a problem with any body type, but that the Victoria Secrets fashion show only shows ONE body type and typically a very limited range of skin tones. I literally cannot tell some of their lesser-known models apart because they have such a similar look. It's "business and it sells" for the exact reason I mentioned; most women cannot look like those women, and so they pay for products to try to remedy their shortcomings. That's how consumerism works. They create need, and sometimes, that need is self-esteem.

I'm not hating on the women chosen to walk the runway. They are beautiful, and the work of a model is difficult. I'm just "voting with my dollars" when I choose to say no to such a narrow idea of what women should look like. I'll contribute to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show's success when they embrace more body diversity.

My biggest problem is telling women who don't like the fashion show for whatever reason that they're "ugly, jealous bitches," as I saw two people doing that day. You used the same language, "thinly-veiled insecurities," to shut me up. And with the idea that I'm jealous comes the idea that I think I'm ugly or should. I don't believe that.

"Ugly" is a word used to silence women, and it becomes more complicated when we realize that the standard for beautiful is so unattainable. That was my initial reason for writing the post. You also can't argue against someone calling you ugly because the minute you say "I'm beautiful," you're immodest and conceited. Basically, you cannot win. Women who have dissenting opinions are often shut up this way. That's what this post is really about, not thin women parading down a catwalk in expensive lingerie.


Couldn't agree more. It is all an illusion,and let's remember the magic of makeup. At the catwalk they have all kinds of "beauty tricks" to make the models look more curvaceous than what they really are. Most if not all of them are really "flat" . I'm not saying this in a bad way . Whatever body shape size or color, we should embrace and accept ourselfs that IS sexy. Being comfortable in our own skin. Not trying to be someone else, not trying to be what society dictates as " True beauty".