Sexism in America: Holiday Edition

Feministing had a little article on sexism in the media this morning, which reminded me about my ongoing war with Victoria's Secret. For those interested in the background, the Feministing article was a summary of this WSJ article giving examples of blatant sexism in the media during the Clinton campaign. Save yourself some time and just watch this video from the Women's Media Center aptly titled Sexism Sells But We're Not Buying It.

Look, I understand that sex sells, and the market isn't JUST for men. Women buy into the sex as well. Think men's cologne ads.

But back to Victoria's Secret. Last year at Christmas time, Victoria's Secret was sending me catalogs every 5 days. As I enjoy their products, I flipped through a few of these. In one, I found a girl dressed in a baby doll lingerie getup. The outfit itself was satin, deep blue, had fluffy white trim. Embarrassing, sure, but in and of itself, simply tacky. What was deeply disturbing and personally objectionable to me was the model they chose and they pose she struck. The model was the same one pictured above. She was kneeling on the seat of a straight back chair, bending over the back. She was shoeless. Back arched. Legs together, toes pointed toward the ceiling. I think the style was meant to represent the intersection of haute couture and high school musical innocence. Her image was blatantly stylistically sexy and decidedly underage. It was a pin up for the pedophile market. It was so bad that I wrote Victoria's Secret an email about it. Me. Little-miss-could-give-a-shit-what-people-do-in-their-bedrooms. This was just not okay and it shouldn't have been okay for anyone else IMO.

Do you doubt that a 20 yo model can be made up to look pre-teen? Take a look at this. This model is made to span 10-60 years.

But no doubt, sex sells. Fashion mags. Women buy them. Teens buy them. Ads like this appear in them regularly. We don't even flinch.

Cause God knows there is nothing I'd rather do that roll around with my legs apart with sand making its way up my hoo-ha. But make no mistake. If I could get an ass like this by drinking Cabana, I'd be downing barrels of it this afternoon. But this ad says something different to a 40 yo woman than it does to a 16 yo woman. In fact, a 40 yo woman might look wistfully at the ass, but trust me, she's gonna take one look at those shoes and say "let's see her walk in sand in those". But a 16 yo woman looks at this ad as an objective for herself. She buys into it lock, stock, and barrel. If she doesn't look like this, all is lost. A 16 yo doesn't get that NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THIS. Not even this lady, whose every blemish and dimple on that ass has been air-brushed to perfection. Of course, it means something entirely different to a male. Although, in all honesty, I think the ad screams that the woman you are with can look like this with enough alcohol in your system.

And women are not innocent here. Who do you think these ads were intended for?

Try as I might, I can't find anything inherently wrong with this ad. I mean, he isn't doing anything inherently sexual. He just IS sexy. But really, someone needs to tell the advertising business that banana hammocks haven't been sexy since 1972.

That' s just WRONG. I think what bothers me most about this ad is the idea that bad fashion as gone international.

I think the question becomes, as it was for me with the Victoria's Secret ad last year, who is the intended audience for these ads? I think largely it is teenagers and very young adults. Teenagers buy Calvin Klein boxers and Victoria's Secret PINK lines. And that I find terribly disturbing. That young girls are taught that their value lies in straddling that thin line between innocence and slut. That men are taught their entire sexuality should lie in a perfect body. If you aren't a show-er, you better be a grower. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

If sexism sells and we don't like it, why are we buying it for our kids? If I was a parent, my child wouldn't be stepping foot inside a VS, and I certainly wouldn't be buying them a gift card there either. Good thing, I guess, that I'm childless.


  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like beaches in theory, but I'm not a MAJOR beach person because I really find it a bother to be finding sand in my things and in my "things" for months after going to the beach -- and that's with keeping all my clothes on! While I am a fan of DJ Assault's inimitable track "Sex on the Beach," actual sex on the beach, or grinding oneself into dusty beach furniture in the case of this ad -- well, like I say, I find sand in odd places months later without spreading the opening mat and inviting it in.

    Maybe the message is if you drink quite enough, you'll be duly anesthetized such that Hoo-Haa Silicosis won't be so bad.

    I really have no point. I just wanted to agree that near nudity/activities involving grinding and the beach seem best kept in the realm of theory, I think.

  2. Sand just makes me mad, which is why God smote me by having me study desert plants. Ask Liv. Sand + Daktari = massive cursing.

    The best part about sex on a beach? Those little umbrellas they put in your drink. =)

  3. Actually, those ads are directed at gay men. (Women are not visually stimulated).

    But yeah. I don't understand why you'd be angry at that pose. At all.

  4. Well Mary, at least one of those images I find visually stimulating. Trust me. It ain't the banana hammock. LOL


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