All The Things The Victoria’s Secret Show Makes Me Feel, As A Fat Woman

Natalie Slaughter

This show is everything that’s wrong with the world.

It’s relatively common knowledge that the Victoria’s Secret catalogue represents everything we’re supposed to strive for as women.

We’re supposed to be busty with hips that curve out at just the right angle and long, slender legs that boast a generous thigh gap. Long, cascading waves of shiny hair, a tiny waistline and flat stomach are essential to being an attractive woman, they tell us.

And if these women can attain this body, well, then we should be able to as well.

The reality is much grimmer than that. The models who have these bodies put themselves through months of grueling, self-defeating calorie restriction and training in order to attain these impossible physical ideals. And if professional models – people whose job it is to look this way, have such a hard time of it (VS Angel, Adriana Lima famously revealed she went on a liquid-only diet for nine days straight before the 2012 show to shed weight, resorting to eliminating even fluids for 12 hours before the show), how could it possibly be attainable for the average woman?

If you think that’s rough to contemplate, consider it from the perspective of someone who’s been fat her whole life.

It’s true that I eventually came to terms with who I am and learned to love myself, but you should know it’s very much in spite of things like the Victoria’s Secret show, not because of it. Never once have I felt empowered as a woman who dared to have an imperfect body, because according to VS and industries like theirs, women should be perfect.

This isn’t real life.

Given, there are a few body image campaigns out there that actually encourage women to embrace their bodies, no matter what shape we come in, though even these articles tend to focus on a slightly larger version of these same models.

And while I think it’s wonderful that we’re finally starting to see plus-size models on the catwalk and in online stores, they all fit the same criteria. Curvy hips, generous busts, trim waists, and flat stomachs. Their thighs may be a little fuller, hips a little broader, arms a little thicker, but any flaws are still photoshopped away, just in case we thought for a moment that it was okay to have an imperfect body.

A few years ago Victoria’s Secret launched a project laughably titled ‘The Perfect Body’ campaign. The theory had merit: to present a lineup that would depict a diversity of bodies. thereby proving there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect body’ (unless of course you have the right figure-enhancing VS underwear).

Campaign fail: VS’s ‘The Perfect Body’ campaign proved uninspiringly narrow-minded.

Unfortunately VS’s view of diversity proved unimpressively uniform, presenting us with the same predictable mix of thin, Photoshopped bodies. Even the non-white women featured in the campaign were on the lighter end of the skin tone spectrum, and aside from a few near-imperceptible variations, it’s safe to assume the models involved were all the same dress size.

The obvious tone deafness here tells us all we ever need to know about the company’s likelihood to embrace anyone aside from thin, leggy supermodels in the near future. They’ll continue to push an impossible beauty standard for women, normalizing the look to such an extent that fat women like myself will grow up understanding that we aren’t really even women.

We’ve been trained from a young age to understand that we exist as eye candy for men, and perhaps that’s why, depressingly, we shouldn’t be surprised so many women risk their physical and mental health in order to strive to attain to the so-called ideal body the Victoria’s Secret show seems hell-bent on pushing every year. But what if for once, we turned our TV screens off and went and instead admired ourselves in the mirror, taking the time to appreciate just how incredible our imperfect bodies are?

Until I see a woman with a physique like mine donning angel wings, that’s my plan.

Comment: Do you agree the Victoria’s Secret show promotes damaging ideals for women to aspire to?