Professor Habibe Burcu Baba
TA Shawn Newman
1 February 2016
Analyzing Gender in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show
Every year, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is one of the most widely viewed programs in the world on television. Models dress in elaborate lingerie and perform in the fashion show in promotion of the Victoria’s Secret Company’s clothing line. According to the company, the women performing in the fashion show are considered to emulate properties of the “ideal female”, which results in the show providing an unhealthy body image for women and portrays unrealistic expectations for women to look a certain way (Andrews 3). The show’s models show a outright lack of diversity in body types amongst the women, and implies to the women of the wider population that you’re supposed to be extremely skinny and have large breasts and butts, which, evidently, is not a reality for all women to share. Unfortunately in society, there have been ideologies fashioned surrounding the fact that in order to be normal you must be beautiful (Lennard 263). These are the kinds of sets of standards we see portrayed from the annual events of the VSFS, which are often easily integrated into society. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show depicts the various ways in which women are objectified and are exposed to unrealistic body standards, ultimately revealing how many forms of popular culture and media can negatively influence the female body image.
There is no arguing that the VSFS and the media that surrounds it provide high expectations for women to look like the models that participate in the event. Andrews stated that the brand has continued to idolize thinness, and shows no sign of altercating their standards of size in order to reflect the majority of American women (2). These standards demonstrate their point that only one kind of body type is worth honoring. Many audience members are adolescent girls, who are quite arguably a rather impressionable demographic. Seeing the bodies of these models on TV makes many women feel like they have to achieve a similar feat for acceptance. The sordid reality is, most of the models’ bodies are near impossible to achieve and only function to create body issues and self-confidence issues (Tam 1). In addition to the influences from the various forms of popular culture, women are often already expected to obtain a body that measures up to the standards set in life (Milestone and Meyer 88). Particularly in the lives of teenage girls, body image is a substantial issue. It is already a concern amongst women in society without the negative influences from the fashion show, so Victoria’s Secret merely fuels the fire. Women see these famous, skinny models with large breasts and big butts and they tell themselves that they have to achieve those looks or else no one will consider them to be beautiful. Not only are women influenced to think they have to be skinny and beautiful, but their “marks of history such as scarring and impairments are now expected to be surgically erased to produce an unmarked body”(Lennard 263). The women in the VSFS show no signs of scarring, blemishes, or any form of deficiency, once again imposing to the audience the standards that they set.
The VSFS promotes images of women that other women aspire to but can’t attain (Andrews 1). The bodies of the Victoria’s Secret models act as negative representations of body image that lead to hierarchies and inequalities within the society of women (Milestone and Meyer 8). Since the ideal “beautiful” body image is considered to be skinny, plus sized women are constantly getting the message that they aren’t supposed to feel sexy (Andrews 2). The show has an extreme lack of options for the sizes of lingerie that they offer, which completely eliminates the chance to diversify the show in that way (Andrews 2). In America, the average clothing size for women is 12 to 14 and bra size is a 34DD, yet Victoria’s Secret remains to demonstrate that the only body image that is considered beautiful is being skinny (Andrews 1). These facts simply continue to prove the point that the VSFS is forcing girls to feel like they should be skinny and beautiful. The models that are chosen to participate in the show are constantly portrayed in social media as the most popular and beautiful girls in the world, which only creates more and more expectations throughout society for all girls to look like that. Many girls who are regular viewers of the VSFS and who have knowledge about the participating models know that their diets consist of very little (Andrews 1). Knowing these models are eating practically nothing but egg whites in order to look the way they do, girls often practice the same eating habits in hopes of one day achieving these same looks (Andrews 1).
It can come as a great shame that one of the most watched programs in the entire world poses such negative effects on the women in today’s society. The portrayal of the show by the media to the public reinforces these negative properties onto women. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show sets a standard of expectations for women to look a certain way even though it is nearly impossible to look the way some of those models do. Women all around the world are put down and disheartened by the way the media exemplifies how they are supposed to look, and the VSFS is one of the main contributors of these representations.
Andrews, Jessica C. “Why We Deserve More Diversity on the Victoria’s Secret Runway | Teen Vogue.” Teen Vogue. Teen Vogue, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.
Davis, Lennard J. “21. Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory/ Rosemarie Garland-Thompson.” The Disability Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1997. 257-73. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
Milestone, Katie, and Anneke Meyer. “Representation, Gender and Popular Culture.” Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012. 8-101. Print. 24 Jan 2016.
Tam, Adrienne. “All That Glitters Is Not as Gold as It Seems.”http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/all-that-glitters-is-not-as-gold-as-it-seems/news-story. The Daily Telegraph, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.