The Walk of (Skinny) Shame: Victoria’s Secret, Body Shape and Policing Bodies

By Nadia Patel

So, it’s that time of year again, pictures from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show are floating around the internet and as per usual social media is having a field day. Now, I am not going to lie, sitting down and watching the show is one of my favourite things to do every year. I love looking at the pictures on Instagram and Twitter and admiring all the glamour and work that goes into a show of that scale.

There are, however, a few things I notice every year all over social media and in everyday conversation that just doesn’t sit right with me and one of those things is skinny shaming.  Every year the Victoria’s Secret show opens the flood gates for an onslaught of body shaming comments. I read all sorts of posts where women and men alike pass judgements on the way the models look, using words like “anorexic” dismissively. We live in a day and age where models supposedly represent today’s “ideal” beauty standards, but the majority of us women do not look like that. This does not however mean that it is ok for us to pass comments over another woman’s weight. I have been in many situations where women have made comments about the sizes of some of my slimmer friends saying things like “doesn’t your mother feed you?” or “you’re all skin and bones”. This is not ok. Now if we flip this and put a curvier girl on the receiving end of that, everyone will jump to her defence and quite rightly so, because we recognise that it is wrong. So why do we not see it this way when it is a skinnier girl we are talking about? How is it ok to draw attention to one girl’s weight in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable when aimed at another girl?

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about a model and this person flippantly made a comment about how “she’s probably anorexic anyway”. We need to recognise that there is a big difference between being slim and being anorexic. Anorexia is a serious problem and if we think someone we know may be anorexic, it is not to be taken lightly, we can’t just throw the word around however we see fit. We also need to recognise that someone being slim does not inherently mean that they are anorexic. It is important to understand that there are a lot of different factors that affect any individual’s weight. There are many reasons for why a person may be unable to lose weight and similarly there are many reasons as to why a person might not be able to put on weight, for example, illness and medication. We are not entitled to make these judgements of other people. Just recently actress Sarah Hyland opened up about her own body struggles. She talked about how people were leaving comments on her Instagram posts telling her to “eat a burger” and saying things like “your head is bigger than your body”. Hyland went on to explain that her weight loss was a result of health problems that she was tackling.

I do however understand peoples’ frustrations when it comes to shows like Victoria’s Secret. They only portray one beauty standard and it becomes difficult for the average woman to relate. The brand could definitely do a lot more for inclusivity and diversity. Only one body type is presented whilst the product is supposedly marketed towards every woman. Some brands have adopted a far more realistic approach in their campaigns through the use of plus size models and by not photoshopping models with stretch marks and it is definitely a step in the right direction. Brands like Victoria’s Secret should take a leaf out of their books, but this still does not mean that it is justified to skinny shame the models that walk their runway.

Women should not tear down other women in an age where feminism is at such a peak. Many of us  like to think of ourselves as open-minded people but then fall in to these little traps of shaming each other. We should be each other’s biggest fans, weight and looks aside. If we can’t respect each other then how can we expect anyone else to respect us? We should celebrate every woman’s beauty.

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About the author

Nadia is currently in her third year of studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Westminster. Gender equality has interested her from a young age, specifically focusing on her Indian heritage and the politics that come with being a girl of Indian descent in the 21st century. It is a very important issue for her and she wants to use her writing to do her part in making the women of today feel heard. In her free time she enjoys travelling and photography.

Image credit

Marylou Faure (maryloufaure.com, @maryloufaure)

Editor

Lucy Wheeler

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One comment

  1. It may be that people don’t express their frustrations in the right way, I’d agree with that. Victoria’s Secret isn’t a high end designer that makes clothes for a limited base though. They sell a so-so overpriced product to average woman. The average model has a unique body type, who is also very slim. I’m not sure exactly what the point of the show is, if they are attempting to sell to a broad audience.

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