all things social work

Body Image: Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

on December 2, 2011

Interesting read…I’m curious why throughout this article there are pictures from the show.  I pasted the article, but if you want to see how it was presented, the link is below…



The Body Project: Victoria’s Secret Show and Perfectionism

A Healthy Dose of Reality with Dr. Hugo Schwyzer


Beauty happens on a spectrum.  But does perfection?

Tuesday night, I didn’t watch the Victoria’ Secret Fashion Show.  Instead, I watched the commentary on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  With Twitter, I followed the #VSFashionShow hashtag, which updated with dozens of tweets a second during the show.  Though the show was only an hour long, the fact that it aired at different times across the country meant that the commentary went on all night.

One word kept showing up in the broadcast and in tens of thousands of status updates and tweets: perfection. At one point, I decided to modify my Twitter feed so that only those posts about the show that contained “perfect” or “perfection” showed up.  I was quickly overwhelmed.  More than “beautiful,” or “amazing,” or even “skinny,” references to perfection dominated the discussion.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has already been analyzed and dissected in hundreds of blogs.   I’ve got nothing critical to say about great models like Adriana Lima, Doutzen Kroes, Karlie Kloss or Candice Swanepoel; every woman on the stage did a fabulous job.  (I did eventually watch a Tivo-ed version.)   I know that many of our Natural Models team members as well as Healthy is the New Skinny fans enjoyed the show enormously.

But as the social media updates made clear, many who watched did so with a mix of delight, envy, and – at least for some – an unmistakable sense of self-loathing.  I lost count of how many tweets I saw that said things like “Candice is perfection: I’m never eating again” or “These models are so perfect.  I’m so depressed.”  Others, using the language of “thinspo”, wrote “I’m so inspired!”  The emotional impact of a program like this, one that so many young women watched together, is potentially huge – and not always positive.

It’s telling that even though the Victoria’s Secret show was primarily about lingerie, words like “perfect” showed up much more in tweets than words like “hot” or “sexy.”  It’s not that young women are reluctant to use the latter words.  It’s just a reminder that what contemporary fashion is really selling is perfectionism itself.  Sexiness has become secondary to flawlessness.

What’s the importance of the distinction?  We all know – or we should know—that “sexy” comes in many different packages.  As we remind people so often here at Healthy is the New Skinny, beauty is found across a broad spectrum of size, shape, skin tone.   That message is increasingly accepted.

But even as we broaden our definition of what is beautiful, our definition of perfection remains as unattainably narrow as ever.  As the tweets and the Tumblr posts and the Facebook status updates made heartbreakingly clear Tuesday night, you can be healthy and beautiful at almost any size – but true “perfection” requires skinniness.  As one commenter put it “Not every thin girl is perfect, but every perfect girl is thin.”

We all want to be inspired by what we see.   But there’s a huge difference between encouraging the healthy pursuit of beauty and celebrating perfectionism.   Girls today are under more academic, financial, and emotional pressure than ever before.  A big part of the problem is that increasingly, role models (and make no mistake, fashion models are role models) aren’t admired merely for their looks or their achievements.  They’re admired for their perfection, and for the suffering they may have endured to achieve it.

We called our outreach program “The Perfectly Unperfected Project” for a reason: each member of our team knows well the tremendous personal cost of pursuing flawlessness.   They’ve each found self-acceptance, not by letting go of an interest in fashion or beauty, but by actively celebrating their own perfect imperfections.   Even the models we saw Tuesday night are, off the stage and out of make-up, gloriously imperfect.   So praise their beauty, praise their style, praise their confidence, praise their clothes – but think long and hard about the consequences of calling any model “perfect”.


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