Women Strike Back Against Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect “Body” ’ Campaign

With their #IAmPerfect movement, three U.K. residents are saying the lingerie brand is body shaming and promoting an unrealistic standard of beauty.

(Photo: Doctor Christian/Twitter)

Oct 31, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, Gisele Bündchen, and Tyra Banks are just some of the famous faces lingerie company Victoria’s Secret has chosen over the years for the rotating cast of models it calls Angels. Anyone who has seen them posing in their skivvies in a print or television ad—or watched them strut the catwalk of the Columbus, Ohio–based company’s annual fashion show—knows the brand hasn’t been a champion of diverse body shapes or sizes. With Victoria’s Secret, thin is always in. But a recent advertisement for its Body by Victoria line of lingerie seems to have struck a nerve.

The ad features the 2014 Angels in Victoria’s Secret’s usual revealing bras and underwear. However, critics say that showing the slender models with the phrase “The Perfect ‘Body’ ” printed across them is some next-level body shaming. Now a Change.org petition launched by U.K. residents Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides, and Laura Ferris is demanding that the company change the wording on their advertisements so that it doesn’t promote unrealistic beauty standards. The three women also want the company to “pledge to not use such harmful marketing in the future.”

(Photo: FrancisNoir/Twitter)

The petition explains that women are “bombarded with advertisements aimed at making them feel insecure about their bodies, in the hope that they will spend money on products that will supposedly make them happier and more beautiful.” Promoting just one kind of body shape as perfect serves to “perpetuate low self-esteem among women who are made to feel that their bodies are inadequate and unattractive because they do not fit into a narrow standard of beauty. It contributes to a culture that encourages serious health problems such as negative body image and eating disorders.”

Last year, model Bria Murphy, the daughter of Eddie Murphy, shared shocking details about eating disorders in the fashion industry with Good Morning America. She explained how some models do insane things—such as eat cotton balls soaked in orange juice—because of the extreme pressure to stay thin.

“They dip it in the orange juice, and they eat the cotton balls to make them feel full,” she said. While that’s awful enough, the average teenage girl or adult woman might be unaware that not every model is naturally slim and is going to those kinds of lengths to achieve a so-called perfect body. That makes the practice doubly problematic.

The Change.org petition is also asking supporters to take to social media and express their concerns about the campaign with the hashtag #IAmPerfect.

“Harmful campaign. I am not perfect and I don’t expect it either. What a shame!” tweeted Cinthia Novick—language that sums up the majority of Twitter comments directed at the company. The petition’s creators have also headed to Victoria’s Secret stores and snapped photos of themselves holding a poster with the hashtag written on it.

(Photo: Dove/Twitter)

On the brand’s Facebook page, the backlash is also in full effect. “Just seen the ‘perfect body’ advert......and here’s me thinking that the perfect body was the one I felt comfortable in......oh well better get back to throwing up my dinner!” wrote Facebook user Stephanie Connolly.

Supporters of Victoria’s Secret are posting their thoughts too. “I love your perfect ‘body’ ad and unlike many other women I do not find it offensive in the least. I am a mother of 3 and I am currently pregnant with my 4th child. I have love handles, stretchmarks and lots of other imperfections,” wrote another Facebook user, Kelly Secco. “Even my flaws do not stop me from loving myself or loving your products. Like most women I know, I have lots of things that I would love to change about myself. That doesn’t mean that your ad should have to change though to reflect women who look more like me.”

Other brands are attempting to capitalize on the backlash. Dove, which has become known (and is sometimes mocked) for its “Real Beauty” campaign, released its version of the advertisement.

The women in Dove’s version are more diverse in body size. But nowadays, savvy viewers of any ad featuring women should wonder how much smoothing and tweaking via Photoshop went into it. As for Victoria’s Secret, the company has yet to release a statement commenting on the controversy.