Every year around this time, the Internet is flooded with articles criticizing the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Year after year, these well-intentioned authors point out the glaring contrast between the diversity and “body positivity” we say we champion and the homogeneity of the women we actually champion. While it’s true that our culture desperately needs to expand our concept of beauty, diversifying the VS Fashion Show won’t solve its most fundamental problem.
The Problem Isn’t What You Think It Is
The problem with the VS Fashion Show is not the homogeneity of the Victoria’s Secret Angels. The problem with the VS Fashion Show is that it begs people to look at women as sex objects.
If you can watch the VS Fashion Show without objectifying the Angels or yourself in comparison, go for it. I can’t. Watching it drowns me in vicious self-consciousness. Case in point: a few years ago, I would watch clips of the show while on the elliptical to force myself to exercise longer than I wanted. (And I’m a size-00.)
Victoria’s Secret sells lingerie by selling the fantasy of sex. Am I suggesting that nobody should sell lingerie and we shouldn’t talk about sex? Of course not. Even I’ve spent a pretty penny at that stupid store despite having a husband who thinks lingerie is a worthless distraction. (TMI? Oops.) I’m merely pointing out that making a worldwide spectacle out of women hoping people view them as sex objects is going to cause a lot of heartache for all involved: the Angels, the women comparing themselves to the Angels, and the men watching.
But doesn’t the VS Fashion Show celebrate the human body?
If the human body is good, and the VS Fashion Show celebrates the human body, what’s the problem? The human body is good because humans are good. We all know that objectification is wrong, but do we understand why? Objectification is not wrong just because it violates a person’s wishes; objectification is wrong because it separates a part of someone from his or her full identity. Thus, celebrating a human body while ignoring or disposing of the rest of that human is not celebration at all; it is an attack.
I love fashion and am in awe of the artists who look at the human body and create. In a perfect world, we women could walk around in fantastically expensive bedazzled thongs (ouch), not only on runways, but also around our neighborhoods (!) What a woman is (or isn’t) wearing shouldn’t change how others view her. But we don’t live in a perfect world. When many people look at the human body, they are unable to see the entire person standing before them. Because of our capacity to objectify human beings, just about anything can become ‘pornographic’ depending on how we are looking at it.
Stocking next year’s runway with beautifully diverse women of all sizes, backgrounds, and disabilities won’t teach us how to look at people the way they deserve to be viewed.
The Funny Thing About Angels Is…
The chosen few who are Victoria’s Secret Angels are selected for their bodies. Irony of ironies… the most basic difference between angels and humans is the fact that angels don’t have bodies. An angel human is actually an oxymoron…(so maybe re-think that “little angel” bib you bought for your friend’s baby shower”). Every person on the planet has a beautiful and unique body—bodies that allow us to build relationships with others and experience our crazy world. Today, let’s all be thankful that none of us are angels.
*Sorry for the swear word in the title, Mom. “Dang” just didn’t sound as good….