Victoria’s Secret sparked major controversy recently when they launched their new Perfect Body ad campaign, which for many is a blatant demonstration of issues like body shaming in marketing and in the media.

 

While there are those who are in complete opposition to the campaign, there are also those who have jumped to its defense, claiming that denunciations of the campaign are simply a result of an overly sensitive public. Although it’s impossible to deny that we as a society do tend to react rather sensitively to many issues when they needn’t cause such controversy, it doesn’t make sense to label this campaign as one of those instances.

 

The fact of the matter is that an adverse reaction to this campaign is entirely justifiable. However, this is only true so long as said reaction is informed by several other key points which need to be taken into consideration.

 

Critics feel Victoria's Secret's latest campaign is damaging to women (victoriassecret.com)

Critics feel Victoria’s Secret’s latest campaign is damaging to women (victoriassecret.com)

For starters, it’s important to understand and recognize that Victoria’s Secret is hardly “creating” this idea of the perfect body, nor is it at the root of the body shaming debate at large. As a society, we have been exposed to propaganda about what qualifies as ideal or beautiful for decades. It is the prolonged perpetuation of these ideas that makes us react in such fervent opposition every time we see another case in which they are reinforced.

 

Acknowledging this point is essential to understanding this particular campaign’s position in a debate which goes far beyond a single advertisement. Critics of the campaign’s opponents must understand that the intensity of any opposition to the campaign stems from far more than this single instance. Meanwhile, opponents themselves must recognize that Victoria’s Secret, while responsible for perpetuating body image ideals, is not responsible for creating them. In none of these cases, however, does this point make the campaign any less harmful, as it becomes one of many cases in which a singular idea of what can be considered beautiful is reinforced.

 

Another important consideration is that this campaign, which is named for Victoria’s Secret’s latest bra but nevertheless seems to be tacitly valuing one body type over another with its wording, should not serve as a green light to criticize thin or lean women. Those who oppose the campaign do so on the grounds that it is unacceptably supporting an ideal body instead of celebrating the physical diversity of beauty. In their ardent disapproval of the campaign, however, too many critics completely contradict their own positions.

 

Many have taken to social media to express disapproval of the campaign, including these women who reimagined it entirely (twitter.com/dearkate)

Many have taken to social media to express disapproval of the campaign, including these women who reimagined it entirely (twitter.com/dearkate)

They do so by discussing the beauty of women who don’t fit the body image celebrated by Victoria’s Secret at the expense of those who do, claiming that the latter are too skinny or even that they look malnourished. Such comments do not differ in any way from the message supposedly being sent by this Victoria’s Secret campaign and should be equally unjustifiable in the eyes of the campaign’s critics.

 

These are all important factors to take into account in light of the debate around this campaign, but they in no way belittle the negative influence that such a campaign can have on women and their body image. To suggest that oversensitivity or a lack of self-confidence are to blame for critics’ disapproval, as many supporters of the campaign have done, is simply too naïve a notion. As previously mentioned, women, and men for that matter, have been exposed to singular images of beauty for years. To assert that these images cannot have a damaging effect on even the most self-assured individuals after prolonged exposure is unrealistic. All people are constantly influenced by ideas they are exposed to throughout their lives, and body image is no different.

 

We need to recognize that there is no singular definition of beauty. The sooner we can eliminate that notion from our society, the sooner we can celebrate beauty in all in its forms, and all its sizes.

 

What are your thoughts on the Victoria’s Secret Perfect Body campaign? Share them below, or tweet me @tamarahoumi