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Victoria’s Secret and Women’s Appearance

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Marie D. Smith, the author of Decoding Victoria’s Secret: The Marketing of Sexual Beauty and Ambivalence, is a retired French and Spanish college professor. She lives with her husband, Claude Jay Smith, and her two sons in Jacksonville, Florida. She has received many awards for teaching from the Florida Association of Community Colleges, the Florida Foreign Language Association, and the Union Teacher Press Association. The Popular Culture Association published Smith’s article on Victoria’s Secret on October, in 2002. Smith’s Victoria’s Secret article explains how Victoria’s Secret is socially damaging to our society, and most importantly a woman’s self image.

Roy Raymond opened a single Victoria’s Secret store in 1977, which was originally a store for men to buy their wives and girlfriends lingerie without being embarrassed, but Leslie Wexner bought the chain and geared the store towards women buyers (Smith 56-57). Victoria’s Secret’s stores were elegant and up-tone, which appealed to women feeling less scandalous towards buying inappropriate outfits for men. Victoria’s Secret’s sales skyrocketed, while women’s respect for their bodies plummeted. Victoria’s Secret depicted women to be seen as only an object towards men, and believed women should use their bodies to get a man’s approval. While Victoria’s Secret models were using their bodies to sell their products and gave women unrealistic bodies to measure up to. Overall,

Marie Smith’s essay is effective towards making the reader believe Victoria’s Secret display women as only an object, and should use their body to achieve a man’s love through her own logic, emotional appeal, and credibility.

Smith reveals her own logic in Victoria’s Secret’s sales are to persuade women to use their body as an object towards gaining a man in their life. Smith believes Victoria’s Secret’s ads are based on three main expectations that are: a women should use her body to sell any product, even herself, a woman is having a hard time finding the right man in her life, and a women’s self-image is based on a male’s views of her beauty (58). Victoria Secret knows sex sells, and if a woman really wants a man’s approval, they will do whatever to make them happy. Smith uses her own reasoning in explaining that Victoria’s Secret is more effective than other companies because, “these hidden messages play into the ambivalence, insecurity, and contradictions, both inherent and society-based, which characterize male/female sexual relations” (Smith 58). Smith is entirely correct because Victoria’s Secret is giving women options to upgrade their body and remove all forms of insecurity they have. Through Smith’s knowledge of Victoria’s Secret’s message towards society, she concludes Victoria’s Secrets believes women need to use their body in order for a man to be attracted to them.

Smith justifies how Victoria’s Secret affects women’s emotions motivating them to have the perfect body and using it to attract men through her strong use of examples and concerning tone. The images in Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs affect women emotionally by seeing looks and poses of seductive, dreamy, and confident beautiful women, and realizing they are alone (Smith 59). Victoria’s Secret pushes women to feel

as if only “demure” and “teasingly different” women are beautiful. Smith believes Victoria’s Secret’s ads display, “a woman is struggling to get or hold onto a man to give her meaning in life,” which is generally true (59). Women want a man to love them, and when they see the attention Victoria’s Secret models are getting from men, they believe they can “sell” their bodies as well. Smith uses a very concerning and upsetting tone when she proclaims that a women’s self-image is determined by a male perception of female beauty (59). She does this in order to effect women’s emotions, making them believe Victoria’s Secret is wrong. Women should believe they are beautiful and have self-confidence in themselves. Women should not be living up to a man’s standards.

Smith uses qualifying sources to convince her readers that Victoria’s Secret drives women to reach perfection only up to a man’s approval. Smith revealed an article written by Renne Redd which stated, “women’s self-esteem is built upon how attractive they are towards men because of Victoria’s Secret’s mass-marketing of creating the standards of the female attraction (Redd 59). Victoria’s Secret does entirely affect women’s feelings about their bodies because women want the same attention Victoria’s Secret models are receiving from men. Redd continues explaining that, “the models are not the anorexic type that women tend to idealize. The image of the curvaceous woman is therefore healthier, but the underlying effect is that women are sensing this is what men want” (Redd 60). Most women are curvy but the only problem is women do not see themselves as sexy. Victoria’s Secret makes women believe if they are not a Victoria’s Secret model then they are not sexy. Smith reveals, Victoria’s Secret’s goal is to enhance the shape of a woman by remodeling their bodies through Victoria’s Secret’s sales quotes, “a body for

your body” and “second skin” (Smith 60). Victoria’s Secret is confident enough to change a women’s body into something “naturally” sexy, which determines women to believe they are not beautiful as they are. Smith uses a sample of magazines and web sites driven towards men’s obsession towards Victoria’s Secret models, which makes women’s self-esteem crash. A sample from an anonymous article posted in <formen.ign.com> states, “Tyra Banks just simple rules the planet…[H]er body could melt my hypothalamus gland in two seconds flat…[H]er majestic breasts is a rival to any other set I’ve ever seen” (Anonymous male 61). Men like this are a prime example of how Victoria’s Secret has damaged the view of beauty and self respect for a woman. Women’s self esteem downfalls because they feel as if they need a “Miracle” bra to enhance their curves for a man’s approval. Through the use of many sources, Smith proved Victoria’s Secret has damaged a man’s views on a women’s beauty, and a woman’s self esteem. Women should feel confident enough to love their own bodies for what they have, not what they can change and remodel.

Overall, Smith was very effective towards making women believe Victoria’s Secret has made women enhance their bodies for men’s approval through her own knowledge, reaching women’s emotions, and credibility. Smith has used her own knowledge of Victoria’s Secret’s message on women to help persuade and strongly acknowledge the damage Victoria’s Secret has done towards a woman’s image. Smith triggers women’s emotions through using a very upsetting tone because Victoria’s Secret’s message is very destructive towards a women’s self esteems and a man’s perception of women. The author uses many sources from Redd’s article and men’s websites that supported her argument behind Victoria’s Secret’s message. Smith did a great job expressing her opinion towards Victoria’s Secret, which helps women and the society become aware of Victoria’s Secret’s detrimental views of the perception of beauty.

Smith, Marie D. “Decoding Victoria’s Secret: The Market of Sexual Beauty and Ambivalence.” Discovering Popular Culture. By Anna Tomasino. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 56-63. Print.

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