Victoria’s Secret: ding dong the witch is dead

Sorcha McCrory
Sorcha McCrory

Sorcha McCrory is a British writer, avoiding Brexit by absconding to Copenhagen. She is interested in fashion, pop culture and art, and the intersection of all three

Never in my life have I smashed out a ‘like’ quicker than when I saw an Instagram post with the caption “the Victoria’s Secret fashion show is canceled”

 

 

In part, because I have for years begrudged the use of “fashion show” to describe an event closer to Miss Universe than fashion week, but mostly because this outdated, outmoded and out-of-touch spectacle served as an annual reminder of how far we had yet to go. And I just I love watching dinosaurs being smacked off the face of the earth by a big old reality-asteroid. 

 

From dangerously narrow representations of beauty to deliberately refusing to include transgender models, this insipid portrayal of women has been a recurring raunch-culture nightmare since its inception in 1995, relying on an early noughties trend to repackage the male gaze and sell it back to women under the guise of empowerment in its latter years.

 

In a post-heroin chic era, one which saw the rise of the body positivity movement and encouraged self-love regardless of dress size, this annual show of size-4 white woman has been an albatross around progress’ neck. 

 

The patronisation of women in these shows has been similar to a beauty pageant. Former CMO Ed Razek once described the models as “athletes” because of the training it takes to be in the show. Wealthy women with personal trainers and dieticians, groomed like show ponies and patted on the head like their achievement – going from XS to XXS – was a worthy one that took strength of character. 

 

 

It was never a fantasy by or for women. It was oppressive, patriarchal and all the other bad words we’re trying to get away from in 2019

 

 

Off the backs of these shows came content encouraging women to “train like an angel” or, worse yet, eat like one. Not only are the results unattainable and unsustainable – the models often dehydrate themselves before the show as this creates more muscle definition – they conflate general fitness and healthy diet with a fantasy that cannot be maintained, even by Kendall Jenner. This creates a dynamic of inadequacy for any woman trying to emulate these fantastical standards.

 

Fantasy. That’s what the entire thing boils down to. The reason transgender models would not be cast, according to Razek, was because “the show is a fantasy.” And it was: it was the fantasy of a 14-year-old boy’s wet dream; it was the fantasy of late-90s bankers who would only date 21-year-old models; it was the fantasy of advertising executives still pushing “sex sells” as a credo to die by. It was never a fantasy by or for women. It was oppressive, patriarchal and all the other bad words we’re trying to get away from in 2019. 

 

And this is where it gets really good: The Victoria’s Secret show has been cancelled because of dwindling sales and lack of interest. According to the Guardian “The December 2018 show, aired on Walt Disney Co’s ABC network, was watched by 3.3 million Americans, compared with 12 million in 2001 when it was first broadcast.” 

 

There is no cynical PR stunt. There is no suggestion they are modernising. This is a financial decision, made because We the Public have said “enough. We’re bored”. There is no longer an audience for this and any company still pushing similar “fantasies” will suffer the same fate. 

 

 

This death knell signals a new era, one in which women are not patronised when sold to

 

 

This death knell signals a new era, one in which women are not patronised when sold to – have you been in a Victoria’s Secret shop recently? It’s like a 15-year-old girl’s bedroom from 2008. To paraphrase Mean Girls, it smells like a baby prostitute

 

One in which brands like Savage x Fenty, with their diverse representations of beauty and actual comfortable underwear, reign supreme. One in which beauty isn’t tied to dress size, skin tone and hair texture. One in which women are listened to and, my god, even make decisions about what they wear. 

 

I take great comfort in this. It might only be one in a long list of dinosaurs to succumb to the reality of the modern world, but it was a big one. And until the rest fall, I’ll just take comfort every day that I don’t strap my breasts up to under my chin – long live the triangle bra!

 

Image by Fashionstock.com at Shutterstock

 

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