I’m a feminist and I love the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Wednesday signaled the annual spectacle of music, lingerie and beautiful bodies. Really the event is more a party than it is fashion show. Feminists typically respond in our usual killjoy way with critiques of the show about objectification, unrealistic beauty standards and the exploitation of women’s bodies. All of that is completely valid and I by no means want to dismiss the very real problems that come with any event such as this.
It’s also okay to enjoy things like the VS Fashion Show and to recognize it isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem.
It isn’t anti-feminist or anti-women to enjoy a stereotypical romantic comedy, a fashion show or to go gaga over the latest makeup line, as long as we are also acknowledging some of the inherent problems that come with the those things.
As someone who spends hours every week immersed in feminist critiques of culture and engages in those critiques herself, I acknowledge and understand the problems many people have with events like this.
I can talk about the male gaze and commodification of women until the cows come home. But I also enjoy guffawing at $10,000 bras and being dazzled by the lights, beauty and glamour that comes with runway shows. There isn’t anything wrong with that.
It’s important for us to remain constant in our critiques of culture and its effects on women, but it’s also important for us to remain true to who we are as women. And if you are a woman who loves things that are stereotypical in their femaleness, don’t be ashamed. We are who we are and we like what we like.
In many ways, the VS Fashion Show is different from more high fashion runway shows where the models only serve as nameless, moving mannequins to showcase the work of the designers. VS really is a theatrical performance, in which the Angels star and are encouraged to showcase their personalities. The Telegraph summed up the difference well when they wrote about 2011’s show.
“Unlike most fashion week runway shows, where dour faced models tend to walk passionlessly up and down so as not to distract from the clothes, here the models are encouraged to wink, wave, blow kisses and whoop up the crowd,” Melissa Whitworth wrote.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem was also optimistic in her thoughts on the show.
“Well, it’s employing those women,” Steinem said. “But women’s bodies are not just ornaments, they’re instruments. Walk around the street and look at real people. That’s much more helpful than those ads.”
And I would argue that Victoria’s Secret places more emphasis as the body as an instrument than an ornament, although it’s important to also celebrate the bodies of people who haven’t spent hours in a hair and makeup chair. Regular women wear lingerie and feel sexy doing it. We just don’t always have wings.
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