I never knew how much I would be into and aware of women’s body issues and the societal pressures placed on women regarding their bodies until I had a teenage daughter. There is nothing like having a teenage girl in the house to make you extremely aware of things most men never spend a moment of their lives having to think about.
It’s funny – meaning ironic and strange, not the laughing kind of way – how the images that as a guy I might find appealing – scantily clad, thin women in commercials, magazine ads, on the sidelines cheering for football teams – hit me way differently when I think about what it means for my daughter. And how men will be looking at her. Very sobering indeed.
The latest controversy involves that bastion of male fantasy, Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret commercials and ads have always been a good source for seeing beautiful, sexy young women, in very little but essentially their underwear. The ads are of course intended to get women to buy the lingerie, but I am certain they are equally constructed to get men to buy the clothing for their girlfriends and spouses, believing their women can look just like Victoria's Secret models if they wear the same bras and panties.
But what has gotten a lot of women, and likely some fathers, like me, up in arms right now is the company’s latest ad campaign, which is known by the main slogan, plastered in big letters across a row of beautiful, toned and skinny young women, “The Perfect Body” campaign.
Of course what Victoria’s Secret pictures as perfect is not even close to what the average girl or woman looks like. The women in the ad campaign look like they could use a good meal or 20. Sure, they look great if skinny is the ideal, perfect body. But of course it isn’t. I am not going to lie and say I don’t find the women in the ad campaign attractive. But even I wouldn’t define them as perfect. Even putting aside for a minute the concern I and many of those asking Victoria’s Secret to stop this campaign have for the pressure it will place on young girls and women to hurt themselves trying to be that skinny, I just think the notion of perfect body is non-existent. There are just too many attractive body types; skinny is not the only or best look. And to push that notion as the epitome of perfect is dangerous and wrong.
Look, years ago I would have thought this was much ado about nothing. Advertisers and Hollywood have long pushed a certain standard of beauty and thinness. But now I see firsthand just how dangerous this all is; the impact it has on young girls and their sense of who they are and whether they are worthy. This really is serious business. And equally as important, I know what it does for men, who it is also dangerous to in a different manner. It sets us up to expect women to look a certain way, which doesn’t do us any good either. All of these sexualized images of young women certainly impact boys and young men and how they see and respect women as well. So no one is immune from the effects of ad campaigns like this.
I am by no means a prude about these ads. I enjoy seeing ads, commercials and movies with attractive women just like everyone else. But I also know these images don’t reflect typical women, whose beauty is not promoted with the notion that skinny and young is the only ideal in our society. Far from it.
Photo Credit: Victoria's Secret