Thursday, April 17, 2014

Feminism and the Victoria's Secret Pageant

One thing that seems to rile Feminists, at least as much as anything else, is the Victoria's Secret pageants. For example, Liz Steinborn and Ahna Kruzic wrote:

...The women in this show are unhealthily thin, unrealistically tall, and unattainably pretty; yet they typify America's standard of beauty. They are put in 12-inch stilettos that they need help to walk in, squeezed into too-small underwear, weighed down with 8-foot wings and marched out for viewing pleasure much like a plastic doll we are all pretty familiar with.

At this point, these women stop being women. Instead, they become objects of fantasy; a doll that you can dress to suit whatever your mood: Looking for a dirty tough girl? She's right here! Want to take the girl next door for a roll in the hay? She's already half-naked for you!
If we stop thinking of models as actual human beings, it's easier to watch. They are like floats in a parade – you cannot wait to see what the next one will look like.
It isn't about the underwear; you can't see it under all of the tacky costumes they wear — like the woman in the soccer ball shrug, really?
It's about setting an outrageous standard of beauty and an objectifying ideal of what is sexy.

According to Jamie Utt, "Twenty years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average woman. The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds."  Here is a height chart:

Seventy-one inches is tall compared to the average height of a woman.  But, it isn't "unrealistically" tall.  These ladies aren't exactly giants.  Basketball players are tall, too.  Perhaps being tall confers some sort of advantage to a model.  The models are certainly thinner than the average American woman.  But, "unhealthily" thin?  Some people are just naturally thin, which doesn't mean that they are unhealthy.  In sooth, Victoria's Secret models are actually quite healthy.  Bill Clinton has also been on what might consider an extreme diet, but which has caused him to be especially fit and trim, in light of his age. Twenty years ago, models weighed 92% of the average American woman (which wasn't very far away), and now weigh 77% of the average American woman.  What happened?  Are models that much skinnier than they were 20 years ago?  Of course not.  We're in the midst of obesity epidemic.

 Most American women are a heck of a lot fatter than they were 20 years ago.  The majority of us are now overweight or obese.  The average American woman may be 5’4” tall and and may weigh 140 pounds, but that's still fat.  So, exactly who is unhealthy here?  One of the salient things that a visitor to America will notice is how astonishing fat we are, particularly in the Southern states, but in other regions as well.

When it comes to obesity rates, the USA is clearly Number 1.  Mexico, however, just inches passed us in the percent of the adult population that is overweight.   

Back in the 1960s, on the popular national television show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Goldie Hawn used to "objectify herself sexually" in a bikini.

Back then, fewer women were overweight, and I doubt that a whole lot of Feminists got overly distraught over this skinny bitch's  "overtly-sexual" display.  This "slut" was certainly shooting for the patriarchal gaze, which undoubtedly succeeded in catapulting Miss Hawn's career as an actress.  Watching a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is a bit like being transported back in time, to see female figures that were actually fairly commonplace 40 years ago.

 Jamie Utt writes that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show "is in no way reflective of the “womanliness” I know and value. The women in my life don’t look like the women in this parade."  I don't doubt him for a second.  "The women in this parade project, by in large, unhealthy body standards, and they project onto women everywhere a tiny box of beauty into which the show says, 'You must fit.'”  I suspect that these skinny bitches are probably a lot healthier than a lot of other women.  And, who says that any woman absolutely has to fit into any sort of "box of beauty?"  Anyone who doesn't like the show certainly isn't obliged to watch it.

Lexie and Lindsay Kite obviously loathe the pageant, and make their point with an abundance of Feminist buzzwords, which make the passion impossible to miss, but the logic somewhat difficult to follow:
Due to Victoria’s Secret’s ubiquitous media presence and radical transformation from a modest, Victorian-era boutique to a sexed-up pop-culture phenomenon in the last decade, a critical look at VS’s media texts is now more warranted than ever. Sexual objectification is in no way subtle here – it is central to VS’s varied promotions and operates at the forefront of the texts.  Thus, my purpose in my work is not to assess the level of blatant sexual objectification or inherent “male gaze” within VS’s advertisements, but to illustrate how Victoria’s Secret teaches and normalizes self-objectification and normalized pornography as desirable, self chosen, and empowering.
Where once sexualized representations of women in the media presented them as passive, mute objects of an assumed male gaze, today women are presented as active, desiring sexual subjects who choose to present themselves in an objectified manner because it suits their “liberated” interests to do so.  I argue VS advertising adds a further layer of oppression. The brand’s official slogan is “We are redefining what it means to be sought-after,” and in this regard, the company is not exaggerating.  Not only are women objectified as they have been, but through sexual subjectification, they must also now understand their own objectification as pleasurable and self-chosen...
Further, if we take “pornography” as referring to a state of undress as well as a mode of representation that invites the sexualized gaze of the viewer, VS effectively contributes to the “pornographication of culture” – or the normalized state of porn in our society.  In an era when girls and women learn to treat and experience their bodies as sexual objects from a young age, VS’s nearly inescapable media messages render it not only likely but normal for females to engage in self-objectification as self-chosen and empowering.
A close analysis of the chain’s advertising is necessary, especially due to studies that demonstrate repeated exposure to sexualized female bodies encourages women to self-objectify, positively endorse sexually objectifying images and experience body hatred....
...The accompanying self-subjectification, endorsement of sexually objectifying images, and body hatred proved to go hand-in-hand with such “bold, sexy, powerful” ideals – though ideal for an industry raking in $5 billion a year and expanding across the globe – is not conducive to real progress as individuals or as a culture. Feminist values include self-definition, control over one’s body and personal freedom...and VS represents a severe distortion of feminism – a faux form of power – proclaiming women can have it all if they can be it all. When the desire only to be desired is a woman’s primary objective, she loses herself, her control, and her freedom.
In the case of Victoria’s Secret, a push-up bra and thigh-high boots are made to stand for“empowerment” in a way that objectifies feminism and femininity simultaneously through its commodification of the female form...We can fight back!
The Kite sisters consider the show to feature "sexualized female bodies", and to be replete with both "sexual objectification" and "sexual subjectification",  which incites (obviously) the "sexualized male gaze", and thus amounts to "pornography" which contributes to the "pornographication of culture."  The pageant also causes female viewers to "self-objectify", to "self-subjectify",  and to spend far too much money on Victoria's Secret products.  Previously, a lot of Feminists complained about "sexual objectification" in art, and the male (or patriarchal) gaze that the work aroused.  Now, the women are simultaneously "objectified" and "subjectified", which is now doubly bad, even if self-chosen on the part of the model. The Kite sisters are out-doing Andrea Dworkin, who stated that, in using the term objectified, "we hope that people will think that we are very smart when we use a long word."  And, the Kite sisters probably consider themselves to be even smarter for using that and other long words. 

The Kite sisters consider the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show to be "pornographic", and believe that the show causes women to hate themselves.  Feminists are certainly known for using a bit of hyperbole when asserting a point.  Anyone who doesn't like the show certainly doesn't have to watch it, and I think that the show mostly appeals to women, anyway.

It is undoubtedly a very good thing that, our educational system being what it is, our Feminists have never bothered to learn Spanish, and never switched the channel to any of the Spanish-language television channels.  Otherwise, if our Feminists had ever found out about the Miss Reef contests

or even Sábado Gigante's Miss Colita

then, boy would our Feminists have gone berserk.  To characterize these shows as "pornographic", "contributing to the pornographication of culture",  as containing  "sexualized female bodies", and as replete with "sexual objectification" and "sexual subjectification" just wouldn't be enough.  The Feminists would have to invent some new buzzwords to express their outrage.  The lecherous "sexualized patriarchal male gaze" would be stimulated in all but the queerest of male gazers.  Any Feminist who happened, by chance, to view any of these Spanish-language pageants would certainly fall into a swoon and faint.  The Feminist's delicate constitution would be just too weak to handle it.

Even ordinary Spanish-language shows, like Univision's Caliente, would be far too sexy for our Feminists to handle.

And, actually touching a woman's butt on a television show:


If this had occurred on an Anglophone television program, then it would have been a major news item for months on end.  Feminists would have labeled the assailant a "rapist", succeeded in ending his career with the network, and campaigned for his prosecution and imprisonment.

Another Feminist wrote:

 ...this annual penis happy show happened last night.  I have so much to say about this show that I don’t even know what to say.
 Oh yay! There are helllaaaa almost naked, unrealistically thin, and beautiful women walking the stage dressed up as sexy angels. Who couldn’t love this?!
 Did you know the size of the average woman is 14. The average size of a model is 2. See any gross disparity here?
 The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, along with other models and runways, show just how obsessed we are with being thin and beautiful. It’s those shows that tell us that if you are fat, or even normal, it’s not good enough. Being thin isn’t good enough though! When I asked my roommate what she thought about the VS Fashion Show, this is what I got:
 "Not only are they thin, but they’re thin with big boobs and a butt. And they’re perfectly toned and have fantastic sex hair and even have wings because they can fly and because red bull gives you wings"
 So, you have to be thin, but have big boobs. Oh, and an ass. Oh, and you must have some muscle tone (unless you’re just a high fashion runway model, then ribcage showing is a MUST). Your hair must look like you’ve just been fucked BUT you must also look unattainable at the same time. And, wings…really? Did you know that angels looked like playboy models back in the Jesus days? Yeah I didn’t know that either.
 The Victoria’s Secret Fashion show gives both men and women (you have no idea how many men watch the show to just stare at the women..cough*objectification of women*cough*male gaze*cough*gross*cough) a shit idea on what women’s bodies are supposed to look like.

^These are not real, normal, everyday women.

^ These are…and they’re pretttyyyyy hot by the way…
The sad thing is, most people don’t see the beauty in the last picture when it’s compared to the models’ photo. When I look at the top photo, all I see is thin women with fake tits. When I look at the bottom photo, I see women with goals and aspirations; women who are strong and independent; women who have amazingly beautiful personalities; women who know how to rock their bodies. 
People wonder why we live in a fad-diet society. It’s because we’re told that we need to look like Victoria’s Secret’s model to even be slightly beautiful. These unrealistic beauty standards are so incredibly detrimental to both men and women. Why do we have eating disorders? Because women feel that they need to be stick thin. Why do women wear pounds and pounds of makeup? Because we are always being told that we aren’t pretty enough. (have you ever noticed that there are aisles and aisles of makeup and hair accessories for women and like one aisle for men? Shouldn’t that be a sign?) We are always being told we aren’t good enough…that we need to try harder. The sad thing is that even when these models aren’t wearing makeup, they’re constantly being hounded for looking uglier than normal. Society’s idea of what is beautiful is entirely fucked up. When I lived in Australia, I never felt the same amount of pressure about wearing makeup as I do here in the states. What the actual fuck? Why are we so obsessed with makeup and hair products and diets and weight?... 
Contrary to what this lady says, I think that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show actually attracts more female than male viewers.  Hence, the models are getting more of a female than a male gaze.  And, yes, we know that the bulk of American women are a heck of a lot fatter than Victoria's Secret models.   Size 14 may be the average size of the American female, but that is still quite hefty, by both historic and international standards.
Although a lot of Feminists seem to think that the Victoria's Secret pageants cause women to have eating disorders, hospitalizations for eating disorders have actually plunged lately.  Obesity-related hospitalizations have been soaring.  Maybe these pageants are making women too fat instead of too skinny?
As for the boobs: well, I suspect that most of the models are misrepresenting the actual size with the help of Victoria's Secret push-up bras.  We never get to see them topless, do we?  Their buttocks, on the other hand, are certainly quite lovely to behold.  Who wouldn't welcome the chance to get his hands on a pair?  However, one problem that I think that the pageant may have with male viewers is that the models all look pretty much the same, like so many Barbie dolls.
There are some variations in hair color and skin tone, but their body shapes are almost identical.  Taylor Swift fits right in with them.  Men typically like to have a bit of variety, particularly when is comes to visual stimulus, and may find themselves bored as the impact of the stimulus wanes within about 10 minutes of the start of the pageant.  A lot of gents would probably prefer watching Brazil's Miss Bumbum contest.
This pageant features quite a lot more variety in the sizes and shapes of the participants.  With the Victoria's Secret pageants, once you've seen one model, you've pretty much seen them all.  You get saturated fairly quickly.  With the Bumbum contest, the patriarchal male gaze remains intense throughout, because each chick looks different.  As Arnold Schwartzenegger says,
 "After watching the Mulatas shake it, I can absolutely understand why Brazil is totally devoted to my favorite body part: the ass."
Given that Gloria Gloria Steinem herself is reportedly "cool" with the Victoria's Secret pageants, I don't know what the Feminists expect the National Organization for Women to do about it.  What I think they should do, rather than pressure Victoria's Secret to close down or modify its pageants, is for the National Organization for Woman to put on its own pageant, featuring a variety of body types that they think are beautiful, so that the patriarchal male gaze can gaze upon them, and maybe more women will be happy with their appearance.
Brazilians appreciate women in different shapes and sizes, and I think that Americans also have the potential.   However, we are getting to be much too fat.  The men are getting fat, too, even though we don't get overly upset about it.
The above Feminist ended her blog entry with "So I leave you with a challenge…I want you to own your body and own your beauty. Nobody is ugly."  I'll leave you with another challenge.  Stop drinking those stupid American soda-pops.  Things go a heck of a lot better without Coke.  Stop eating French fries.  Stop eating the overly-processed garbage and junk food.  No more donuts.  Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  And, turn off the damned computer for a while, and go out and get a little exercise.  And, for the gents, until the National Organization gets it act together and starts offering its own pageants, if you want, take a little trip to Brazil and take in dem asses for yourself!



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