Victoria's Secret is Killing the American Girl
Updated: May 10, 2018
I am scrolling through Facebook, as one does when they're avoiding doing actual work, and I come across this advertisement. My first thought as my eyes land on this emaciated girl is that it must be advertising some obscure Russian (no offense, Russia, but you do have very skinny models) swim line. My heart initially drops, feeling sorry for the girl pictured, probably just starting her modeling career, hoping to one day make it to the... holy shit! My eyes hit the logo. PINK. This is not some young girl just beginning her career. No, this is a weathered fashion model, representing the most coveted lingerie/swim line in the world, Victoria's Secret. I screen shoot the image. I don't know what else to do.
I, a 30 year old plus size model, am getting advertisements of emaciated models, trying to convince ME to buy products?! Okay. I can handle it. I am a weathered model! I've been a plus model since 2008. I have been a National Eating Disorder Awareness Spokesperson for almost ten years now. This is nothing new, especially from this company, so why is it so unsettling? I mull it over and finally the answer comes to me. This is not a magazine or a billboard. No, this is targeted advertising, and if Victoria's Secret is filling my newsfeed with these unhealthy images, imagine what they're doing to less secure women. Women who are currently avoiding all carbs, who are trying Jenny Craig for the third time, or Keto... worse even still, what about the young women who live and die by what's on social media? These girls seeing images of women hailed as "the most beautiful supermodels in the world" clearly showing off a figure possessed by less than 2% of our population is not healthy for them. It gives all of us a complex. Yes, the model pictured could, theoretically be "healthy". This is possible, but highly unlikely. Regardless, I'm not here to judge the model pictured, I am however here to shame Victoria's Secret for promoting an unrealistic body image to impressionable people. Eating disorders increase every single year and with that increase, we also see a decrease in the age when eating disorders begin. We are now seeing children as young as 5 years old being diagnosed with eating disorders (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/busting-myths-about-eating-disorders). To put that into perspective, when I was 5 years old, my sister used to convince me that pies made out of mud were chocolate, and then I would eat them. Not, like, the entire pie. Enough to realize that it wasn't chocolate. A 5 year old's brain is not equipped to form their own ideas of the perfect body. These children rely solely on the media and people surrounding them to define beauty for them. Advertising like this, whether intentional or not, is bleeding into little girls and boys, making them feel insecure enough to make the conscious decision to starve themselves to attain a more "perfect body".
In this plus size modeling industry, size 6 is considered plus, but the average American woman is a size 16 (https://www.today.com/style/what-s-average-size-16-new-normal-us-women-t103315). Keep in mind that the average model is 5'11", so this isn't just a size 6 on a 5'2" female, it may be size 6 on a woman who is over 6 feet tall! Then, we strap pads to the model where we want her to look "fuller" (every plus model has foam pads. I don't care if they deny it. It's required.) and do a full ad campaign where this "plus model" looks like she's relatabley close to your size, but she's missing all the things that go along with gaining weight, like a softening around the chin, weight gain on the arms, stretch marks, etc. It's kind of like when you watch a movie and some Hollywood starlet is playing a character who's pregnant, but her ankles aren't swollen, she's as thin as a rail from behind with just a little, perfectly perched foam "bump" against her abs. This is not real life! And when the majority of American women buy these clothes and put them on, they are going to hate themselves because they don't look like a size 6 model with pads on her, while wearing them. And when they get pregnant, they are going to feel like failures because their ankles swell and they get stretch marks everywhere, and their wedding ring won't fit, and they get an extra chin, because it's motherhood and you are creating a human inside of you and you are supposed to gain weight and have all of these symptoms, dammit!
We have a responsibility to show impressionable minds realistic representations of bodies! How can we expect a child who grows up, surrounded by images of women who just had their third child two months ago but now, through "a healthy diet and exercise" have slimmed back down to their pre-baby, let's be honest, pre-pubescent weight https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/gisele-bunchen-debuts-incredible-post-baby-bikini-body-in-hawaii-picture-201382/. I'm sick of it! I feel like I am beating a dead horse here (choice words for a vegan, I know), but when will it end?! When will Victoria's Secret finally show more realistic bodies in their stores, magazines, on their runway... WHEN?! They have clearly had a massive impact on how we define beauty, particularly in America, which makes them responsible (not solely, but greatly) for the rise in eating disorders and eating disorder related deaths. Eating disorders kill more people than any other mental illness! These deaths are caused by medical complications from binge eating, purging, starvation, and over-exercise, but suicide is also common among individuals with eating disorders (nationaleatingdisorders.org). People are dying in droves. This is not some cute trend that we will all look back on and hang our heads in shame, like the scrunchie, harem pants, mismatched stirrup leggings that are half polka dot, half plaid (just me?), you get the point. We are talking about young men and women now who are literally starving to death, trying to look like the people in these images.
I ask, no; beg, that you take a good long look in the mirror and consider whether or not the brands that you support are representing bodies that look like yours. I know that it can feel like an impossible ocean of suppliers, telling you that every physical trait that you were born with is wrong, somehow a defect that you must correct. However, at the end of the day, these suppliers operate on your dime. Without your money, they would cease to exist. So, please don't feel like you can't make a difference because you absolutely can! If you choose to boycott a company, that's one less ad that they show on Facebook, one less person feeling like they are worthless because they don't fit into a mould designed by people who themselves do not fit that mould. You can make a difference. Please, do not "follow" them on social media, do not shop in their stores, and do not allow them to define what beauty is to you. You are stronger than this. We are stronger than this. We have to be.