Since 1995, when they first came out with their annual Angel show, Victoria Secret has been dominating the lingerie industry. With stores all over the world, they are the go-to’s for the majority of female adults when it comes to undergarments. Unfortunately for the company in the last few years, they have been in the spotlight multiple time, but not in a good way. Recently their Chief of Marketing came out in an interview saying that they will not hire transgender models for the sole reason that they will tarnish the fantasy that they are selling. In 2014, Victoria Secret came out with an advertisement featuring models with the same very skinny body type with the tagline “The Perfect Body” which caused a huge controversy in the media (See picture below). This situation leads us to the moral dilemma that Victoria Secret was facing when that advertisement came out and that they are still facing to this day. Is it morally right to priorities the fantasy of beautiful women to make more sells over the true representation of real women? I think in this moral dilemma they should priorities real women and be more inclusive because of all the negative consequences.
Many effects on the population came as the result of the publicity such as eating disorders and hurting the target demographic because of the fantasy that they are selling. Eating disorders are a very serious problem in today’s youth especially with young girls according to the Canadian health survey, 27% of teenage girls who are between 12-18 years old are victims of some type of eating disorder (Papadopoulos, 11). When looking at the publicity that Victoria Secret put out, all the women illustrated are extremely skinny (around a size 0 or 00). This type of image with this particular caption is sending the message that to be beautiful you need to be a certain size, “that’s an unhealthy message to send to young girls about what a 'perfect body' should look like.” (Culp-Ressler, 2 ).This can ultimately lead to some eating disorders in younger girls because of their low ability to not compare themselves to others. If looking at this dilemma from a utilitarian point of view, this situation is not ethical because very little people can obtain this shape and when they do it is usually a very unhealthy way of life. Thus the harm that is done to women everywhere with this advertisement is greater than the benefit of it and the pleasure that is providing to society. The other side of this dilemma is that they are a company and they are doing what they are supposed to do which is business. They are providing what they think people want to see, which is the fantasy of perfect women, with incredible bodies. If it wasn’t what their target customers wanted their network would not be 38 billion dollars US (Statista, 1).
The advertisement is not ethical because of the esteem problems it causes to women of different ages all around the globe. Self-esteem is a major issue in our society especially when it comes to media. According to a study conducted by the United Kingdom government, they found that almost 10 million women don’t like their bodies. Young girls in most part will compare themselves to women they see on their social media feed. That is what happened with this Victoria Secret ad, they suggest that the perfect body is only one type, “All this does is 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,” (Williamson, 1). Furthermore, it says to teenagers that they should look like the models in the publicity, who are following an extremely dangerous and unhealthy diet. This causes the teenagers to reput in question everything about their body, self-worth and leaves them feeling like they have to fit this unattainable mould. This makes the ad unethical even if it’s for business purposes. “A study of 6,928 girls aged 9 to 14 years and found that attempting to emulate the appearance of females on television, in movies, and magazines were predictive of beginning purging behaviour.” (Z. Lawrie et al., 356). Young teenagers who are exposed to that publicity are also very impressionable, “The societal pressures of thinness are particularly influential during adolescence and young adulthood as this is a time of gender identity development and sex-role exploration.” (Tiggemann and Pickering, 300). They are like sponges, they absorb everything that they encounter.
There are multiple ways to resolve the issues that were created with this ad. After the controversy exploded, Victoria Secret decided to change the name of the publicity from “The perfect body” to “A body for everybody”. This helps the situation because even if the model is still very skinny, it doesn’t advertise one specific body as the one everyone should hope to have. Another way to solve the problem of this ethical dilemma is to take the same approach that Dove has which is very body inclusive. They made the same campaign as Victoria secret, but they included various body types and ethnicity which help illustrate that being different is perfect which made the publicity ethical and is still a business that is going very good. One solution that would create the greatest good is changing people's minds about what the real fantasy is which is not the models that Victoria Secret present in their ads or fashion show. There is also photoshop that is a major contributor to the problem because it unrealistically alters the model’s body. To make people aware of this they should start putting at the bottom of the pictures a mention that the pictures are modified. That way the customers will know not to compare themselves because they are photoshopped.
To conclude, with the social media world grows, we are constantly bombarded with pictures and ads that are modified and we end up comparing ourselves and wishing that our bodies were different, but it is important to remind people that they are beautiful without having to be a size 0. It would have been also interesting to look at the ethical dilemma that is present in their annual fashion show.
Culp-Ressler, Tara. “Victoria's Secret Edits 'Perfect Body' Ad After Critics Complained It Was Damaging To Women.” ThinkProgress, 6 Nov. 2014, https://thinkprogress.org/victorias-secret-edits-perfect-body-ad-after-critics-complained-it-was-damaging-to-women-2328c2fc5584/.
Duncan, Eric. “Topic: Victoria's Secret.” Www.statista.com, https://www.statista.com/topics/4819/victoria-s-secret/.
Ekbom, Anders, et al. “Excess Mortality, Causes of Death and Prognostic .” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2009, https://fmf.cfpc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/F264_Your-Adolescent-Patient-Has-an-Eating-Disorder_Now-what.ppt.pdf.
Lawrie, Z., et al. “Media Influence on the Body Image of Children and Adolescents.” Eating Disorders, vol. 14, no. 5, Oct. 2006, pp. 355–364. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10640260600952506.
Stevens, Jenny. “Starvation Diets, Obsessive Training and No plus-Size Models: Victoria's Secret Sells a Dangerous Fantasy.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Nov. 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/nov/22/victorias-secret-show-angels-lingerie.
Tiggermann, Marika, and Amanda S. Pickering. “Role of Television in Adolescent Women’s Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 20, no. 2, Sept. 1996, pp. 199–203. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199609)20:2<199::AID-EAT11>3.0.CO;2-Z.
“Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria's_Secret_Fashion_Show.
Williamson , Harriet. “Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Advertisement Is Dangerous.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 29 Oct. 2014, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/victorias-secret-perfect-body-advertisement-is-dangerous-thinspiration-9826494.html.