Victoria’s Dirty Secret

With the Victoria Secret Fashion Show right around the corner, the effect that the “angels” of Victoria’s Secret have on viewers’ body image needs to be discussed.  Every year, people all over the world watch this fashion show and compare themselves to the almost unattainable goals of the Victoria Secret Fashion Models.  Every year, the Victoria Secret Fashion show airs; and every year men drool at the “perfect” models and women become more and more self-conscious of their bodies.

I am guilty of watching the fashion show every year, and I am also guilty of feeling bad about my body once the show has finishe2013_victorias_secret_fashiond.  Reading all of the tweets, Facebook posts, and comments on these models has inspired me to finally take a stand against this show.  Emily Wilson, a fellow blogger, posted some tweets that she saw on her timeline about the VS Angels.  They include:

“Time to starve because VS Fashion Show is the 10th!”

“Nothing can make me feel so inferior as a woman than looking at pictures of VS Angels.”

“Like I don’t even feel upset that I don’t look like a VS Model, I feel suicidal.”

“RIP self esteem.”

These tweets portray the self-esteem issues that individuals have due to the fashion show.  As a curvy woman, I am able to back up the feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency after watching this show and looking at the “beautiful” models by society’s standards.  They have gorgeous faces, flat stomachs, long limbs, and perfect smiles.  In last year’s VS Fashion Show, Angel Adriana Lima stated that her routine before the show consisted of not eating any solid food for 9 days before the show, working out twice a day, and drinking a gallon of water a day.  For the majority of the population that have jobs, families, and other responsibilities, this is not a normal lifestyle.  However, individuals still feel the need to attain the body that the VS Angels have.   This unattainability creates self-criticism and a lowered self-esteem for curvier women, especially.

The media portraying these Angels as perfect, beautiful, and flawless enhances the typical body ideal, which according to Smeesters (2009) is not attainable for nearly 98% of the population (p.932).  The media’s pressure for all women to look like this, even when unattainable, is wreaking havoc on female self-esteem and pressuring women to go on dangerous diets to change their body shape.  In a study done by Smeester (2009) titled, The Effects of Thin and Heavy Image on Overweight and Underweight Consumers, it was found that the sociocultural norms that we have created as a society on thinness have a significant impact on women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies.  These Victoria Secret Angels reinforce this “thinness= beauty” ideal that society has created.  This study also came to the conclusion that exposure to images like the Victoria Secret Angels leads women in our society to measure their self-worth by their appearance.

While thinner girls are also impacted heavily by these models, curvier girls have a larger speedbump to overcome in order to obtain higher self-esteem.  For some curvy girls, they will never have the flat stomach or perfect curves that these Victoria Secret Angels have, which could lead them to have even lower self-confidence.

Once reading these blog posts and scholarly article, I have realized that I do not need to be striving to be an Angel.  Each person is beautiful the exact way that they are, and should not feel bad about themselves based on what our society tells us.

Men and women need to realize that these Victoria Secret Angels are not the norm; nor will they ever be.  Yes, the Angels should be idolized for their success, self-confidence, and happiness in their own skin.  However, the population needs to start focusing on this aspect of the Angels, rather than the beauty and “skinny” aspect.

Curvy women are beautiful. Skinny women are beautiful.  Larger men are beautiful. Muscular men are beautiful.  Victoria Secret Angels are beautiful. It should not matter what the size of our clothes are.  Beauty needs to start being determined from our character.

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Princesses aren’t so perfect

The idea of “skinny is beautiful” becomes ingrained in children’s minds at such young ages.  Disney Princesses could be one reason for this phenomenon. All of the Disney Princesses that are beloved by the world are are tall, skinny and beautiful.  From these Disney movies, many young individuals learn that the only way to receive a boy’s attention and be happy is to be beautiful.  According to the portrayals in these movies, being “beautiful” is defined as being thin.  Rebecca Sternberg wrote an article about “the Disney Effect” and talks about the fact that the first six Disney princess that were created were all slim, tall. beautiful girls.

Urusula from “The Little Mermaid”

Research shows that girls expressed greater body image dissatisfaction scores after they watch Disney Movies. In all of the fairy tales that we have been told, the heroic prince and princess are always portrayed as beautiful and “good”, however the evil characters are perceived as ugly and mean, (Asawarachan, 2013).  In most of the Disney movies, the beautiful characters are never shown to be “bad”.  Disney characters help to uphold the stereotype of “what is beautiful is good” (Bazzini, Curtin, Joslin, Regan & Martz, 2010). Ursula from The Little Mermaid, is an evil octopus who tries to steal King Triton’s throne. Her character is not only ugly, but is also fat. This just reinforces to children that you will only be liked if you are skinny and beautiful.

Joanna Morelli, a junior at James Madison University, shared with me her view on Disney’s portrayal of princesses.  She stated that Disney princesses give children an unrealistic expectation of beauty and said, “I’ve always wanted to have Ariel’s body. Even in middle school I was still convinced that was the perfect body.” She then went on to tell me how she believed Disney Princess movies contain many bad values, therefore will not allow her children watch these movies in the future. These movies have many negative impacts on young children- especially when it comes to body issues. Lastly she says, “In order to get a realistic view of body image, people need to distance themselves from media and movies. Coming to college has definitely helped me broaden my views.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/30/disney-princess-real-waistline_n_6076634.html

Ariel on the left is the way Disney created her, on the right is how she would look with a real waistline. Morelli wanted to look like Disney’s Ariel all her life. Maybe if Disney made Ariel look like the picture on the right, Morelli would be happier with her body.

The influence of these princesses on individuals all over the world is immense.  Personally, I have always wanted to have the body of Jasmine. Not only is she pretty, she also is skinny and powerful. Until recently, I have never really noticed how much these beloved Disney Princesses and Princes affect individuals.  If just Disney movies can have such long lasting effects on girls and women, what other negative influences are there that we do not even realize exist?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/30/disney-princess-real-waistline_n_6076634.html

Jasmine the way Disney created her, and Jasmine with a real waistline.

If you want to see more Disney Princesses with real waistlines click here!

Sources:

https://storify.com/sternb13/the-disney-princess-effect-on-young-girls-and-femi

Bazzini, D., Curtin, L., Joslin, S., Regan, S., & Martz, D. (2010). Do animated Disney characters portray and promote the beauty-goodness stereotype? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(10), 2687-2709. Retrieved October 30, 2014, from http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc271773/m2/1/high_res_d/dissertation.pdf