The Only Female Body

This ad, from Victoria’s Secret’s I Love My Body campaign, claims to present new, diverse bodies to the viewer but fails horribly. Despite the two models with darker skin tones, the ad features three blonde white women and two white brunettes. While adding some diversity, every other model in the line-up order is pale white and blonde. Each body is nearing unhealthy-looking levels of thinness, other than their amply enhanced cleavage, that is. The lack of body diversity, that there is only one “true” female shape – the slender body – is revealingly degrading and harmful to women. The ad claims to have “a Body for Every Body” which begs the question, what are women who do not fit this shape? They are erased entirely from the dialogue. In fact, introducing the models as “bodies” is objectifying in its own right, claiming the women as objects of advertising which the viewer is encouraged to “discover.” The sameness of these women, while calling it diversity, and the questionable language used to present them are all things that Victoria’s Secret should really be changing if they aim to empower and appeal to their (arguably unanimously) female audience.

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5 thoughts on “The Only Female Body

  1. coranc

    I also find this advertisement fascinating because of its blunt objectification of women and humorous declaration that Victoria’s Secret lingerie is designed with “every body” in mind. What woman actually looks like this? As you point out, the only type of body represented here is the “slender”—the unattainable—body. Thus, Victoria’s Secret marginalizes those who do not fit into this, quite literally, slender category. Such a practice—one that we have seen over and over again, from television shows’ tendency to promote heterosexual romance to medical and legal institutions’ regulations that exclude gender transgressive people—is extremely problematic. As Angela Davis points out in “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights,” ignoring the needs of an entire group of people effectively silences them: “The birth control movement has seldom succeeded in uniting women of different social backgrounds, and rarely have the movement’s leaders popularized the genuine concerns of working-class women” (202). I think there is an interesting connection here to be made between Davis’ writing and the Victoria’s Secret ad. In both instances, the dominant pole of the binary (wealthy v. working-class for Davis, slender v. fat for Victoria’s Secret) establishes what is worthy of society’s attention (the needs of wealthy white women for Davis, the bodies of slender women for Victoria’s Secret). I completely agree with you that in using such a tactic in their advertising campaign, Victoria’s Secret is only further oppressing the client they are hoping to reach. To truly empower women, as you urge Victoria’s Secret to do, advertisements—and media representations in general—must reflect how real people in the real world genuinely look, act, and experience that reality around them.

    Davis, Angela. “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights.” (1981): 202-21. Web.

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  2. qleah

    I completely agree with your critique of this ad. The advertised “bodies for every body” physically is wrong; there is literally no variety is body shape. My bigger issue, however, is that even their attempt at racial diversity is faulty. I see white and black women portrayed, but what about Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern? Their “diversity” is rather limited.
    Additionally, once again in advertising, these women are simply just their bodies. The slogan “Meet Our Newest Bodies” blatantly supports this. Not our newest “Models” or “Ladies”, our newest “Bodies”. I understand that the campaign and company is selling a clothing and body-enhancing product, but the campaign for diversity could be much more efficient if their “variety” of women were humanized and made relatable to women everywhere.

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  3. christinam12

    I also agree. It’s unfortunate to see media advertising these replicated bodies as if it were the norm. These kinds of messages, that may or may not be intentional, increases the rates of mental disorders in young women. Body image is highly effected throughout young teenage years and having media only show one type creates a self-conscious mentality amongst young girls. It’s disheartening to see the rising rates of mental disorders and media taking advantage of how it effects their sales.

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  4. bamoako

    I agree with your analysis as well. The bodies here show essentially no variability, barring the two darker complexioned models. Even then, they all have the same extremely thin bodies that are only possessed by a very small number of the population (only 2-5%). That Victoria’s Secret markets this as a style for “every body” leaves the majority of women to feel badly about themselves as virtually none of us fit into this category. Moreover, when men see this ad they’re most likely comparing their girlfriends, wives, or potential partners to this unrealistic ideal. If the company actually wants to appeal to “every body” they should include women that more realistically reflect our society. But then again, it’s in the advertising industry’s best interests to make us feel bad about ourselves, so the odds of that happening are pretty slim.

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  5. lfisher2017

    I strongly agree with many aspects of this ad critique, starting with the actual lack of diversity among the models. While models- particularly Victoria Secret angels – are notorious for being incredibly slender and “flawless,” this ad attempts to be diverse by throwing in two minority women. But where are the Asian and Latina women, the woman with curves or even simply the woman of the average size (average size being size 10, and it is very apparent none of the models fit such description)? It seems ironic to portray only one type of body with a “Love Your Body” campaign.

    What also seems ironic about this advertisement is that it appears to be geared towards women (since, as mentioned, Victoria’s Secret audience and customers are primarily female) but embodies all the characteristics typically associated with male desire- slender, tight, hairless bodies. This further emphasizes the notion that male desire is so influential it is now used as a standard.

    I think this ad is a prime example of good intentions that simply fail to break beyond the norms and actually move beyond the standardized desires. Despite the numerous failings in the ad, the underlying message of Victoria Secret attempting to empower their customers to love themselves is a small step in the right direction. Does this step, though, compensate for the poor effort put in to actually supporting the ad? That’s questionable to me, although I am interested in hearing other opinions.

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