It wasn’t until I took my German exchange student to London last year (shoutout to Marie-Jeanne) that I realised how much of a big deal Victoria’s Secret is. Such a big deal in fact, that despite all the incredibly exciting things you can see in London ie. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Gherkin, MJ decided to spend three hours looking at kinky pants to take home for her friends and family- no questions asked- because apparently there’s no Vicky C’s in Germany and that is such a tragedy. Now if I’m completely honest I probably didn’t go in there with an open mind; we’ve all heard the stories of VS (for all those acronym fans amongst you) models, otherwise known as ‘angels’, going on cotton wool diets and renting rooms at their local gyms just to stay skinny but I was sure I would’ve been able to ignore those rumours if the shop had a body positive atmosphere that I’d just missed amongst its promotion.
Seriously, when I first entered the New Bond Street store- which is probably more the size of a small country than a shop- I was excited to discover a place where women would unite over the inconvenience of needing a bra. Where mums would take their daughters to make boobs seem a little less daunting. Where people would be measured casually in the middle of the shop floor, because who cares? It’s all women here. I had really high hopes.
But what could’ve been a revolutionary shopping experience turned into my hatred for a company whose view of women is so fake and so dated that I couldn’t spend more than 20 minutes in there at once. (Instead I sat outside in the rain for three hours bonding with the security guard over child labour, waiting for MJ to return with her 2 for £56 thong deal.)
Everywhere you looked there were posters of white women with six packs and thigh gaps, some pictures promoting products and others just there to make you feel even worse about yourself. The pants- if you could call them pants, they actually looked a bit like the model had accidentally sat on an overhead power line- weren’t advertised with the woman smiling and having fun, instead she looked restless, staring deeply into the camera as if to seduce the person viewing it. As if wearing those pants makes you sexy.
Which would be totally fine if this was just the promotion for a few items, we get it: underwear can be quite an intimate thing, but what shocked me most about VS was that everything was sexy. Despite the fact there are no images or references to men anywhere, everything encouraged this idea that underwear is not for self-confidence but for sex. When you think about it, the brand is incredibly clever. The absence of men in their campaigns makes you think that these models are wearing the products for their own benefit, but if that was true why would they look so unhappy? Instead the idea of sex is insinuated through facial expressions, lip biting, staring, hair pulling, as if the models can’t be happy without their needs being fulfilled by a man. And for me this promotes a very backwards way of thinking, we’re trying so hard to promote ideas of woman as people who can be valuable and also not sexy, but here they’re yet to catch on. And the bras aren’t even very nice.
But what’s worse- and I find it hard to believe anything can be worse than the unnecessary sexualisation of women, but VS manages it- is the lack of diversity amongst their models. Oh sorry, ANGELS. (Because of course these women are no longer just women, they have now transitioned to superhumans: angels, as if they are some kind of superior creation.) Long gone are the days when everyone was beautiful, now unless you’re 5ft 9in tall and have under 18% body fat and a 24in waist and are white (except from the token black woman) and can walk in 6 inch heels you simply won’t make the cut. You won’t even be considered to make up the section of the cut that doesn’t make the cut. In the eyes of Vicky C’s, if you’re not Gigi Hadid you can jog on (although maybe that is quite good advice because you could lose weight at the same time and then maybe audition again next year).
No. I refuse to allow a body type that isn’t even natural be the one that our society idolises, the one that companies like VS genuinely tell us is perfect, even though it takes more effort to maintain than my year group collectively put into their GCSEs. I refuse to make people bigger than a size 0 feel insecure about how they look just fpr the sake of selling some overpriced knickers. Imagine young girls seeing those adverts or going into one of those shops with their parents, seeing that women are presented as sticks in bikinis with nice nails and then being told this is what the ‘perfect’ woman looks like. Imagine the kind of negative influence that will have, encouraging them to do the ridiculous things these women did in order to look a certain way. They already have a whole branch of their company aimed at young people- it’s called ‘Pink’ if anyone’s interested in defacing the webpage.
Because, I know most Victoria’s Secret stores don’t have displays as elaborate as the one in New Bond Street, but there’s nothing more degrading than walking around a shop with life-size video footage of women wearing wings practically fingering themselves as they stare into the camera to the soundtrack of thousands of screaming fans all in t-shirts with inspiring messages on like ‘Get to the Gym Bitch’ or ‘VS Model in the Making’. That is not
the type of place I want to buy my underwear- thank God there was a Disney store next door.
So Teamales if you liked this post/are a VS model in the making/have just realised that now Gilly Hicks has shut down you might actually be forced to buy your undies from VS remember to like, comment and follow my blog if you do not already. And if you still don’t hate VS after all this, then I’d deffo recommend checking out their ‘perfect body’ campiagn…