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Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show perpetuates unrealistic standards, hurtful stereotypes

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Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show perpetuates unrealistic standards, hurtful stereotypes

Victoria's Secret show from Paradise, Nevada.

Victoria's Secret show from Paradise, Nevada.

Victoria's Secret show from Paradise, Nevada.

Victoria's Secret show from Paradise, Nevada.

By Jessie Webster, Columnist

websterjessieThere’s a great segment on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” called “How is this still a thing?” in which Oliver mocks the continued existence of subjects ranging from pennies to daylight saving time to Columbus Day to beauty pageants.

The genius behind this segment is Oliver’s ability to mercilessly question the necessity of not only what is objectionable in society, but also of what is popular and even revered.

In this spirit, I’m making my own addition to the list of unnecessary, even hurtful events that should no longer be a thing in 2017: the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Victoria’s Secret, if you will, has always been sex-appeal. By selling garments such as the “Very sexy push-up bra” and the “Very Sexy Lace-trim thong panty,” it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to figure out what the company’s marketing ploy is.

Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with women embracing the beauty and individuality of their bodies. And if lingerie is something that helps women achieve that feeling, it should be celebrated and encouraged.

However, during Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show, the brand fails spectacularly at celebrating body diversity. Instead, it objectifies women and their ethnicities in order to sell merchandise, and champions a stick-thin yet selectively curvy body type so difficult to obtain that even the models train and diet for weeks in advance to achieve the look.

Full disclosure — I was once an avid watcher of the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.” There is a special, albeit stereotypical kind of camaraderie gained by sitting around the TV with your girlfriends and eating junk food while watching the flawless models walk the runway.

Over the past few years, though, the magic and luxury of the event has been wasted on the brand’s repeated use of cultural appropriation to sell its underwear. In 2012, supermodel Karlie Kloss walked the runway while wearing a Native American-inspired headdress, complete with a fringed leather bra and panties, in a puzzling and offensive tribute to Native Americans and the Thanksgiving season.

This year’s show features a section called “The Road Ahead,” in which models will be wearing designs that drew inspiration from Chinese culture. Images of the segment released before the show include supermodels Kendall Jenner sporting a flame tail, Elsa Hosk wearing a dragon costume and Adriana Lima walking in embroidered thigh-high boots.

Even with four Chinese models walking the Victoria’s Secret runway this year, there is something undeniably outdated and transparent about claiming to celebrate an entire culture by attaching a dragon tail to a bra and panty set. That, coupled with the fact that the company is actively trying to expand its market in China makes the whole production seem so fake.

Victoria’s Secret’s decision to televise their fashion show has undeniably turned the brand into a household name. The show attracted over 9 million viewers in 2015, and adding big-name musicians to accompany the segments gives the night a “Super Bowl of fashion” effect. If you’re on social media, it’s almost impossible to avoid the images.

At a time of so much divisiveness in the U. S., it’s not a stretch to see how stereotypes, even in fashion, make a lasting and powerful impact on the way we view and treat one another.

Victoria’s Secret doesn’t need to rely on cultural appropriation to sell their products, and any attempt to do so is both offensive and lazy.

Jessie is a senior in Media.

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