Christmas, Angels and … Feminism? Reflections on body image


It’s that time of the year again. I’m not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about the time for the annual Victoria Secret fashion show. Since I do not celebrate Christmas, watching the show and making new year’s resolutions to work out harder has been my ritual for the past few years. This video seems to capture it all Weird Things Girls Do After Watching Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I watched the show this year with so much apprehension. I am fresh out of a radical, feminist, anti-oppression support worker training, so at times it’s hard not to see oppression everywhere I look. I need to remind myself to shut it off before I go bat-shit cray cray. So one half of me saw these women who were being objectified and actually felt sick to my stomach. And the other half was totally cheering them as they strut those amazing works of art in front of the world with such power and grace. I never realized how much power a mere pair of underwear had until I started watching the show. I always liked how they show behind-the-scenes footage of how much work goes into creating these angels – the army of experts backed by a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s really a shame they don’t show how the costumes were conceptualized and created.  Last year when I watched the show I felt like a fat cow even when I was in kick-ass shape myself. This year I was still in pretty good shape, but still swore off cupcakes because I wanted to strive to look like the angels. Anyone who has actually seen the show you can testify how sexually charged the show is. The feminist in me would say go for it, women are the masters of their own experiences.Cupcake in hand, I started browsing for tips on how I can look like a VS angel. I was so happy when I found this post online with the before and after pictures of the VS angels (Click here to see the images.). It made me so happy to see the fresh, un-made faces of these women. Although I actually thought they looked worse than the normal women I always see on the streets, I still found them to be beautiful without the make up. And it also reminded me that any woman could easily enhance their own beauty and look that gorgeous with the proper make-up and techniques… and a team of special effects people.  I know how lingerie brands are being glamorized as empowering women and they are so good at making women feel as if they are in charge of their sexuality. But this only perpetuates the idea that men still define women as objects. With women flaunting their bodies and “inspiring” other women to do the same hoping men will see their worth through these outfits, It’s not a wonder why sex trafficking and prostitution has increased. The entire brand is based around an archetype of a women according to patriarchal sensibilities. Even though women are still aware of the pitfalls of embracing sexist ideals of female beauty we are still not creating alternatives to eliminate those dangers. Will the girls who are watching the show know how to love our bodies as ourselves? Poor body image generally starts from childhood, and that doesn’t stem from the way you look but by the way other people make you feel about your body and your self. The first time I became aware of this was when I was 8 years old, and someone commented on my body shape, telling me I need to stop eating so many sweets or I would get fatter. I was neither skinny nor was I planning to be, and I thought of myself as just perfect up until that point. But from that moment on I was very self conscious about what I wore and what I ate in front of other people. Calling someone “fat” does not always refer to a person’s physical appearance either. The word itself can be used as a weapon, because to the listener it can mean anything from “ugly”, “stupid”, “slow”, “lazy” or “unloved”. And it is a form of oppression that it is used to dehumanize certain groups of people. When was the first time you felt bad about yourself or your body?