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Victoria’s Dark Secret to Advertising.
Today the roles of females and males in our society has drastically changed, as opposed to the roles in our history. Women have begun to stand up for themselves and to break out of the mold that society has placed on them, but when it comes to gender representation in media advertising, we can’t say the same. Women are seen as fragile, exotic, sexual — whereas men are shown to be aggressive, tough and in control. This idea has given birth to gender role stereotypes that we find today in our society. We are highly dependent on media when it comes to fashion, news, latest trends and acceptance from the society. Media has a huge impact on our daily lives and the power of media is used negatively which we sometimes don’t even notice. This occurs through the controlling images media shows that makes us feel insecure about ourselves. Media presents successful women as only those who have “perfect body” who are celebrities and models. News articles and magazines covers constantly highlight this in order to encourage women to be more like these models and celebrities. In the Victoria’s Secret advertisement, it influences female perception of the perfect body image. The advertisement emphasis on physical appearance as it is essential for modeling and shows that the body is all that women is good for. Women in the advertisement are being shown as sexual objects by wearing extremely revealing clothes and are down to do anything for acceptance from the society and to get attention. The biggest lingerie seller in America, Victoria’s Secret constantly make women feel insecure about their bodies by put exposing negative stereotypes of “Perfect Body”. Victoria’s Secret advertisement manipulates women by putting stereotypes of ideal body, drawing attention for their sexiness and racially profiling the supermodels thus causing serious impacts on the society leading to controversy, insecurity as people tend to look good and fit into society’s standards of “beauty”.
The Victoria’s Secret advertisement uses the idea of a perfect body to promote their bra line “body” by targeting women in ways that they will turn to anything to buy their products through intimidation and manipulation. Many of the models used in the advertisement are photoshopped and are nothing compared to the people who shop at Victoria’s Secret look like. The advertisement sets specific standards for women which is to have a perfect body type with long legs, thin frame and minimal body fat. Many people have protested this generalization that the perfect body size is unrealistic and impossible to attain for many women. The advertisement read “The Body that less than 5% women have” causing women to feel insecure about their bodies. In our society women are often exposed to the media and buy from Victoria’s Secret because they see advertisements from them and tend to feel self-conscious, so they buy their clothing line thinking that it will make them look like the models portrayed in the advertisement. Throughout the advertisement the models are unusually beautiful and skinny with their lingerie on. The advertisement failed to represent more than one body type as all of the models portrayed here have body measurements that our society has defined “perfect”. Kilbourne states, “Victoria’s Secret tempts young women with blatantly sexual ads promising that their lingerie will make them irresistible” (Kilbourne). The advertisement is targeting emotions in such a way that they must look in a certain way to wear their merchandise. The media has placed such an emphasis on looks and body type that if you aren’t skinny as a model, with beautiful skin and hair then you are not perfect. In the advertisement it displays “ALL NEW BODY BY VICTORIA SHOP THE COLLECTION TODAY”. The women in the advertisement becomes what actually is being sold as most of them are very thin, light skin tone and tall. Women are featured in the campaigns and telling the consumers that buying their merchandise, they can be as beautiful and sexy as the Victoria’s Secret models. Body empowerment is an incredible thing but Victoria’s Secret here is doing the quite opposite. There is a slight number of women who actually look like that and these models are not to blame for looking that way. One of the models shown in the advertisement, Erin Heatherton, blames “the company for enforcing her to lose weight and look the way they wanted even if it’s is unhealthy and unnatural” (Business Insider). These advertisements make women feel inadequate and unattractive about their bodies as they don’t fit into the standards of “beauty”. Victoria’s Secret advertisement contribute to a culture that supports negative body image, eating disorders and various health problems.
Most of these advertisements have drawn attention to Victoria’s Secret mainly for their sexiness by promoting beauty standards through their commercials and print media. Liz Dwyer states in her article “Every day women are bombarded with advertisements aimed at making them feel insecure about their bodies in the hope that they will spend money on products that will supposedly make them happier and more beautiful” (Dwyer). These standards set by the society causes women to take drastic measures in order to achieve these body goal which leads to anxiety, mental illness and insecurities. In the advertisement the Victoria’s Secret models have only one body type: perfect tan skin with long beautiful hair. This perfect body in the advertisement is unattainable which keeps the customers coming back and purchasing the products until they look like the models they see. Beauty standards set by the society decides how women should be viewed and judged. Kilbourne asserts “The pressure on women to be young, thin, beautiful is more intense than ever before It has always been impossible.… magic of Photoshop, which can turn this woman into this woman and then try to make us believe that an anti-aging cream can do this” (Kilbourne). There is so much pressure on these women from the society that if they don’t look a certain way it won’t be acceptable. The photo manipulation powers of photoshop allows the advertisers to alter the images and sets high standards for the female body. Kilbourne argues that these advertisements promote capitalist tactics by selling cult of thinness in media which creates unhealthy societal norms and beauty values in young females. In American culture the media has a devastating impact on women and young females in particular. Throughout the history of America from the late 1950’s to the current day there has been a similar pattern in the media’s portrayal of ideal body type and of what defines a woman sexy in American society. Kilbourne argues “women are acceptable only if they’re young, thin, white – or at least light skinned – perfectly groomed and polished, plucked and shaved. And any deviation from this ideal is met with a lot of contempt and hostility” (Kilbourne). Women are manipulated by media that the only way to get accepted by the society lies in bleaching their skin in order to reflect body size, age and race, surgically removing wrinkles and starving themselves. The media “creates a ‘toxic cultural environment’ that surrounds women with unhealthy images and constantly sacrifices women’s health and well-being for the sake of profit” (Kilbourne). Advertising agencies gain profit by making women feel repulsed and insecure by their bodies which causes mental breakdown and sets stakes even higher. The standards are so high that it launches a cycle of catastrophe based on the idea of absolute perfection and leading to lower levels of body confidence, self-esteem and physical health.
The advertisement by Victoria’s Secret portrays two white and a black female wearing lingerie, advertising it not only to just white people but also other races. In the advertisement, the dark skin toned model is depicted as extremely thin and has a perfect body along with the other models. When it comes to race people mostly stereotype that black women have excessive body fat, but Victoria’s Secret advertisement breaks that stereotype. During the late 1950’s only white models were used in advertising to attract customers but as to this day race in advertising has changed drastically. Race in advertising is a modern social construction, as our society is dependent on the media. In the article Race and Gender in Media it states, “In the 1950s, Black people were greatly underrepresented in magazine ads. A “hierarchy of skin color” existed at this point in American history, and this was reflected in the media; Black people with lighter skin tones were seen as being more socially and culturally acceptable than dark-skinned Black people. According to Dates, Black people who did not fit into White people’s standards of beauty (i.e., light skin, long, straight hair, thin lips, thin figure) were excluded from advertisement images” (Hazel, Clarke). The black model in the advertisement is light skin with a body figure like the white models. Racism in advertising has been an issue of past and is a sensitive issue all over the world. Fair skinned women were only used in advertising during the late 1950’s due to racist consumers and racism.
Essentially the advertisement by Victoria Secret is meant to make consumers buy their merchandise in hopes of looking like the models. There are many things that females have to go through during their life such as discrimination, racial profiling, objectification towards women and vicious judgements. The society should acknowledge the struggles females go through as it places an incredible pressure on them to be “perfect”. Many people are blind to the issue that these advertisements are enhanced and edited to match the beauty standards. It is marketing strategy to attract consumers by showing them ideal body and the company does not consider the fact that many women view this advertisement and feel insecure about their body. In the end young girls and other customers should question traditional beauty standards set by the society and think about the fundamental relationship between media internalization and body esteem.
- Kilbourne, Jean. “The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women. TED. Ted Conferences, LLC. 8 May 2014. Web.
- Kilbourne, Jean. “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing. Ed. Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky. Bedford/St. Martins. 2012. 457-479. Print.
- Hazell, Vanessa and Clarke, Juanne. “Race and Gender in the Media: A Content Analysis of Advertisements in Two Mainstream Black Magazines.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 39, no. 1, 2008, pp. 5-21. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40282545. Accessed Dec 2018.
- Schlossberg, Mallory. “Former Victoria’s Secret Model Reveals She Was Told to Lose Weight before the Fashion Show.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 5 Apr. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/erin-heatherton-says-she-was-told-to-lose-weight-2016-4.
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