I'm always struck by how girls fall neatly into two camps on the subject of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Some hero-worship these models with their incredible bodies and extreme dedication to a strict diet and exercise plan, whilst others rubbish it as unrealistic and not at all aspirational. I fall quite firmly into the latter group.
This show has become a staple part of our pop culture, watched by an estimated 9 million people every year. Many see it as a positive thing; a playful celebration of female sexuality. Victoria’s Secret models are among some of the most famous (and undeniably beautiful) supermodels in the world. Adriana Lima, Doutzen Kroes, Karlie Kloss; they all look incredible!
But if I am to nit-pick – and I am – they all kind of look the same. Wouldn’t it be great to see a few different shapes strutting down that runway for once? A washboard stomach looks great in lingerie, but you don’t need one in order to wear underwear.
That said, it would certainly be unfair to dismiss the VS models as mere clothes horses. They work out extremely hard for those athletic physiques and plenty of them have other ventures and interests on the side. Miranda Kerr, for example, has her own successful range of organic beauty products. They are very powerful women.
Regarding the show itself, I’m not saying that I’m adverse to the effects of this spectacle. I YouTubed my fair share of VS whilst writing this, and ogled away to my heart’s content. The mixture of enviable physiques and pop music makes for a huge spectacle. It’s a celebrity gathering, a celebration of appearance and excess – this year, two models were sent down the catwalk wearing jewel-encrusted Royal Fantasy bras worth $10 million. Each.
Having a giggle at how delighted Ed Sheeran looked is all well and good, but it also serves to further endorse this behaviour as a valid form of mainstream entertainment. The fun aspect of the show means that many might not see the harm but logically speaking, it is impossible to swallow this kind of content without subconsciously inhaling more than a sniff of inherent gender bias.
The lads keep their clothes on and ogle; the ladies parade in far less. It’s a softcore, friendly version of our voyeuristic, pornographic culture that is accepted by too many. Consider the pressure felt by young girls these days to look ‘sexy’ even pre-puberty.
More than the actual content of the show, it is the reaction of my peers that devastates me at times. Sure, lingerie, fitness, beauty can all be empowering things to women. However, it is the default setting of so many women to say ‘oh, how depressing’ after viewing images of the Victoria’s Secret show, simply because they do not resemble these women. Whatever about the models, the women watching definitely don’t feel empowered.
We need to be more positive. We need to remind ourselves that ‘our’ reality is so far removed from ‘theirs’ – do you have time to work out for two hours daily? What is ‘en vogue’ and trending should not depress us or make us feel in any way inferior.
I don’t think any of the Angels want us to feel bad about ourselves, so why let them?
Deirdre Foley is a history grad, sceptic, wearer of red lipstick and self-confessed 'beauty maniac'. She is also the co-founder of fabulous Irish beauty blog, Viva Adonis.