Victoria’s Secret: Giving Disabled a New Definition

44 women walk in the annual Victoria Secret Live fashion show on television to exhibit the upcoming looks for the New Year (teenvogue 2015). Out of these glamorous pristine world-renowned super models not one has a visible or is described as having a disability of any sort.

A disability is described as any kind of trait that separates someone from the perceived “norm.” Having a disability can range from a physical or mental handicap on any scale (Mitchell & Snyder). 1 in every 33 people is born with a disability (CDC, 2015), let alone disabilities that develop or occur and impair someone later in life. This statistic supports that on average at least 2 women out of the 44 Victoria Secret models would have some form of a disability. However, this group of models is hand selected from the top model agencies have to offer and not one having a known disability. The makeup of women consists of an elite group of unattainable icons that are not only considered of the ‘norm’ but the ideal image of what the ‘norm’ should be in the eyes of the largest American retailer of women’s lingerie (Statistic Brain, 2015).

It is no doubt that this is not the average fashion show meant to display the mere merchandise and upcoming seasonal product, but a spectacle idolizing the models and the cultural phenomenon of being an ‘Angel.’ It is far from focused on the lingerie, with live performances, back stage interviews of the models and commercials on television (Fushion 2015). The hype and attention placed on the models glorifies them to a new degree, these models that are supposed to be there to exhibit lingerie for potential customers who will wear the pieces of clothing. Producers and product marketers are well aware that viewers cannot relate to someone who is of that immaculate physique. The mandatory requirement of a Victoria Secret model is to be 5’8” in height, and the cast of models averaging is about 5’10”, which rules out the majority of women (MailOnline, 2013). Not only does the show exclude and not employ women with actual disabilities but the women who walk in the show have little to none diversity amongst them undermining actual disabilities with being short or overweight. Being short and overweight does in no way mean that women with these charateristics are now deemed with a disability, yet the way the show is completely selective of the models all of one lean, tall, tone, porcelain body type, this begs the question: if the entertainment and focus on the models idolizes much more than the actual product being sold off the hanger, why is it that the models do not look like more than half of the women watching (MailOnline)? These women are the opposite of standard with unwavering bubbly, charismatic personality and a Hollywood smile there is no room for someone with a speech impediment or lisp to be interviewed by national television. Some would refer to this as the well known “cheerleader effect” in other words the group attractiveness effect. Stemming from the common idea that a cheerleader appears far more attractive with a roster of other girls of the same age group and status, rather than when she is alone or not within a group of similar individuals (Scientific American, 2013). The cast of the Victoria Secret angels fully embraces this ideology to a new extreme by all having the same body proportions and considerable ideal personalities. A future member of the cast who contained a disability would immediately take away from this effect due to the overall manicured to a certain degree requirement that is highly regarded to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel. The future does not look promising for a cast of diversity with real women and real disabilities due to the cheerleader effect maintaining to reel in viewers by the millions year after year, why change (MailOnline)? This does not imply that women that are disabled are any less beautiful than ones without, yet viewing this particular clan of models may lead one to believe that there is a demand for a specific type and any disability or observable flaw would discern someone from believing they could ever measure up to these standards.

Although stated above that the show only puts on a spectacle for the able bodied tall thin women, the clothes also reflect this. The apparel limits to who can and can’t purchase these items due to being manufactured based off what Victoria Secret has labeled as an adequate spectrum of sizes. Consumers who shop at Victoria’s Secret come in all shapes and sizes, yet there is a constant complaint from women of how Victoria Secret does not provide merchandise that fits their body (bratabase blog, 2012). This popular complaint should be addressed by the company by producing a larger variety of sizing and fit, still each year they fail to do so. Due to the evidence of how little of the women watching the show actually posses similar traits of the models, every year the show manages to attract millions of viewers (Fushion).

Never in the history of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show has there been a woman with a noticeable disability (Fusion, 2015). At the rate the show is going, a model in a wheelchair or with a prosthetic limb is beyond far-fetched and unrealistic. Without these variations the show has turned into something unattainable by even the average women without any real disabilities. It promotes exclusivity by deeming anything from what their ideal image of a woman who will be wearing the clothes as disabled based off their current and past track records of models. The show presents the models to be viewed through group attractiveness affect eliminating all forms of diversity that comes with being human.

 

References:

 

Harrington, C. (2015, December). Lingerie Expert: Here’s the Problem with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Retrieved January 28, 2016.http://fusion.net/story/243216/lingerie-expert-victorias-secret-fashion-show-models/

 

Andrews, J. C. (2015, December 7). Why We Deserve More Diversity on the Victoria’s Secret Runway. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.teenvogue.com/story/victorias-secret-fashion-show-diversity

 

Mitchell, D., & Snyder, S. (n.d.). 17. Narrative Prosthesis and the Materiality of Metaphor / David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder. In The disability studies reader. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from https://ereserves.library.queensu.ca/ares/ares.dll?SessionID=G105849346Q&Action=10&Type=10&Value=33467.

 

Birth Defects. (2015, December). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/data.html

 

Mullkerrans, J. (2013, December 23). The Fashion Report: The Victorias Secret Angels reveal what it takes to be cat walk ready. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2524614/Fashion-report-The-Victorias-Secret-Angels-reveal-takes-catwalk-ready.html

 

Why you should never go to Victoria Secret for a bra fitting. (2012, June 28). Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.bratabase.com/blog/2012/jun/28/why-you-shouldnt-go-to-victorias-secret-for-a-bra-fitting-195/

 

Victoria Secret Company Statistics. (2015, October 28). Retrieved January 28, 2016.

Victoria’s Secret Company Statistics

 

May, C. (2013, December 13). The Cheerleader Effect. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-cheerleader-effect/