The Ideal Women, According to Advertisers
The Victoria Secret Angel is a symbol of the ultimate, ideal and perfect woman. With thin, tall, and flawlessly tanned bodies, these models sell lingerie to women across the world. The company is so well-known worldwide that they hold an annual runway show that is aired on television. The company unveils their Angels, elaborate wings, and their latest line of lingerie, and they even bring famous artists to sing on the runway. Their online ads are less escapable because they appear with fun music, colorful words, and stunning models known as Angels. The Victoria Secret Company has been showcasing these models, or Angels, as a part of their brand, featuring them in their commercials, catalogs, magazines, posters up on their store, basically any advertising they have had since the early 1990’s. Others might say that Victoria’s Secret lingerie empowers women by making them feel sexy, making the average women feel like an Angel when they buy their Lingerie. However, companies like Victoria’s Secret, promote gender roles and sexualize and objectify women, giving a false image of what women should look like, resulting in emotional, physical, and mental illness.
Advertising like the sexy Victoria’s Secret ads promotes gender roles that put people in a stereotypical box. As said by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, “it prescribes how we should be, not who we are”(Adichie 5). People are stereotyped since the moment they are born:, females are usually supposed to like dolls, the color pink, and on the other hand men are supposed to like blue, play with toy trucks, and be tougher than the females. In magazines or picture ads, men have different body language that is powerful, physically strong and emotionless, as opposed to women who tend to hide themselves, make themselves smaller, cover their mouths, and look childlike and innocent.
An ad from the 1960s, reads “show her it’s a man’s world.”* The ad is trying to sell ties, but the implication behind the ad is very sexist. The man in the drawing is positioned powerfully with his hands behind his head. He has a smirk on his face and is looking down on the woman from bed. The women in the drawing serves him breakfast while kneeling and looking up to him (Angley 5). However, women shouldn’t be portrayed as less than a man and definitely not be pictured waiting on man hand and foot.
Victoria’s Secret Angels help with this stereotype because an Angel is a man’s ideal of the Perfect women. From a very early age women are taught to sexualize themselves, to dress to a man’s desire. Women have to dress to a man’s appeal so that she would even be considered attractive, and women who dress otherwise are “weird” and unattractive. Advertisements like Victoria’s Secret sexualize women, teaching them that the only way to be beautiful is to look extremely sexy and wear lingerie.
Victoria’s Secret gives women and men, from a very young age, false impressions of what all women should look like. Young girls are more prone to succumb into the message underneath all these advertisements because they are trying to find an identity, and these big companies promote the ideal women and what she should look like. These young girls and teens do not realize that the models in these advertisements are genetically tall and thin. The Victoria Secret Angels are genetically supposed to have certain body types. *They dedicate their entire lives to look like the ideal Angel and most, if not all, models are photo shopped into having longer necks, a more even complexion, bigger eyes, and whatever other “imperfection” that photo editors find
Some celebrities speak up against all this, like the Disney channel star Zendaya. She recently had a photo shoot in the magazine Modeliste where she spoke out and released on her Instagram account the real photo and the photoshopped version of the photo with a message that read “… I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self-conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have,” proving that even famous celebrities, who are looked up to by young girls, do not really look like themselves in the magazines (Zendaya 5). Celebrities like Zendaya who speak up against all these magazines that manipulate pictures give girls a sense of reality and in a way these girls realize that not all the models on the magazines look perfect.
Objectifying women is another major problem that advertisements like Victoria’s Secret cause. When magazines or online ads turn beautiful women into objects it makes women feel worst about whom they are, they may not be one hundred percent aware of it, but in the long run it has major effects. Women start to believe that their bodies are objects, not human beings. Women deserve all the respect that men have in the modeling and commercial industries. When companies turn a model’s torso into a beer bottle, it subconsciously gives women this message that their bodies are equal to the bottle, they are not human beings.
People might say that we can shut out all these comments, and that men are sexualized as well, but as Adichie says “we are social beings and we internalize ideas from our socialization.” People cannot help but to absorb these ideas when they come at these girls from various directions (Adichie 5). Girls start to internalize these ideas because people are social beings and that is who people are and what people do. Victoria’s Secret turns women into just another torso, or another leg, another breast and feature the bra and panty as the main object in the commercial. Men are also sexualized, however, when they are sexualized, their body language is completely different. The wording in the advertisement is completely different as well. In advertisements, men are usually seen as powerful. For example if there is a sexual picture of a man’s torso, the body language is more dominating and overpowering, almost as if the model was standing his ground. The wording of commercials targeted towards men is also different. In those commercials, it reads more of “become powerful with …”, “dominate the streets…”, and “impress the ladies…” but when marketing is done towards women it reads a little more like “change your complexion with…”, “don’t let people see you like this anymore try …”and “fix any imperfection with…” proving that women are always told to change themselves, make themselves perfect, and dress to impress a man. Men however are told to dominate, have no emotion, and be strong. With all these different companies that have different marketing strategies it makes people, especially women, get all these ideas into their heads and cause effects that may be irreversible.
Advertisements like Victoria’s Secret cause emotional, physical, and mental damage on so many levels. The emotional damage is low self-esteem issues, they start to believe that a man or boy would not like them because they are not as beautiful as the girl on that TV show, as that model they saw on a runway, comparing themselves to the Victoria Secret Angel and realize that they do not have the curves, legs, and thin body. Some girls even go as far as to starve themselves, falling into bulimia and anorexia, to achieve the model type body that they desire, unfortunately, unaware that they cannot attain because the body is all in the genetics. Both bulimia and anorexia are very serious health issues that can take years to overcome and even result in death. These girls and women believe that if they are not skinny that society will not accept them, that they are unlovable by any one because they are not. Naturally these girls eventually end up falling into depression from beating themselves to near death, both physically and emotionally, because they don’t look like these models.
The use of pathos and ethos is present throughout the commercials because they use the Victoria Secret model as celebrities. Pathos is present because the angels are well known and people recognize who they are in the commercials. So when people see them and observe the confidence and upbeat spirit they carry when they wear the lingerie in a commercial or runway, women think or absorb the idea that they will look like that when the women buy and wear the Victoria’s Secret lingerie. It’s effective in their campaigns because the Angels become the epitome of the perfect and dream women, making women and young girls think that by buying the Victoria’s Secret lingerie they will feel and look like the Angels. Ethos is present because when they present the models, the music sets the mood. When the models appear on the screen or in a commercial, the music can be either very sultry, sexy, and in a way provocative, or it can either be very upbeat and make the people feel excited resulting on how people, more specifically women, would feel when they go out and buy the Victoria Secret lingerie. The ads create a fun and sexy environment that make women subconsciously think that they are going to feel like that when they buy the lingerie.
Finally, these models are not to blame; it is the industry and the companies’ that advertise the products fault. Advertisers need to represent real women, who do not have a small waist, long legs, and a petite body type. Advertisers that sell products promote strict gender roles that make women and men believe that there is only one type of acceptable women, the perfect women with no flaws, stretch marks, cellulitis, pimples, and everything else that is considered imperfect, but is perfectly natural to the human body.
They make men believe that the only way to be masculine is by being strong, emotionless, and dominant. Advertisers that sell products objectify and sexualize women and put people in small box where they have to abide by those rules of genders, effecting their emotional health, their ego, and most importantly who they truly are inside. Advertisements like the Victoria Secret “Body” campaign give the general public a false of what a “real” woman should look like, when in reality nobody really looks like those models or celebrities. All resulting in emotional, physical, and mental damage that takes years to repair. *
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “We Should All Be Feminists Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I
TEDxEuston.” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Angley, Natalie. “Sexist Ads in ‘The Seventies’ – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 July 2015. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Victoria’s Secret. “Body by Victoria Online Commercial (July 2015).” YouTube. YouTube, 30 July 2015. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Zendaya. Digital image. Instagram. N.p., 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 29 Oct. 2015. <https://instagram.com/p/9FV2sdJmOk/?taken-by=zendaya>.