Looking back at my adolescence, I remember a particular episode with great clarity: seeing cellulite on my legs for the first time when I was 19 and inducing myself into a state of panic. I went out and bought body brushes and moisturisers to try and tackle this unsightly, humiliating flaw. My thought process was that if I started dealing with my cellulite now, perhaps I wouldn't have to feel ashamed and embarrassed by my body when I was older. Underpinning this whole thought process was the belief that I would no longer be attractive or desirable if I had cellulite- I would not be perfect. I would be flawed, tarnished.
Years of seeing circles of shame in Heat magazine, zeroing in on the supposed 'imperfections' of female celebrities and subconsciously processing an endless stream of airbrushed models had left me believing that true beauty meant constant perfection. I had been convinced that normal things that most women have in some form or other- cellulite, wrinkles, non-pert breasts, tummies that stick out, body hair - were embarrassing and shameful, rather than the wonderful, natural variations of the human body that they are.
This campaign is a shocking example of the cruel, destructive way that society judges women's bodies.
Where do such ideas come from? Marketing, magazines and the media have a lot to answer for. An all-too common marketing tactic that companies use is to make their customers feel insecure and inadequate, while promising their products as the cure for whatever supposed ailment they have come up with. Underwear and clothing store Victoria's Secret's new marketing campaign for their range of bras 'Body' is an appalling example of such careless, irresponsible advertising. The campaign has the words The Perfect 'Body' brandished across photos of models of identical, slim body type.
The annual Victoria's Secret show is broadcast in over 200 countries. According to a 2012 YouGov study, it is the most popular clothing company in America, and they are also hugely popular in Canada and the UK, among other countries. Their power and influence over society's perception of women and beauty is immense, and this campaign struck me as an unforgivable abuse of this platform.
The message that this kind of campaign sends out to women is unhealthy and damaging. It promotes negative body image, low self-esteem and eating disorders among women. It tells us that only one body type is desirable. It tells us that only one type of woman deserves to be proud of her body in underwear. It tells heterosexual and bisexual men that only women who look like this are attractive and that there is something wrong with them if they are attracted to women of different body types. It perpetuates a culture that shames women into believing that they are somehow a failure for not looking like the women in those photos.
Only 5% of women naturally possess the body type portrayed in adverts like these, and the models are so photo-shopped that those bodies are almost impossible to attain. Victoria's Secret could use their power to celebrate the beautiful, rich amazing diversity of women's bodies, instead of telling us that only one body type is worthy and desirable.
If you think that Victoria's Secret should be held accountable for this marketing campaign, please sign the petition 'Victoria's Secret: Apologise for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range 'Body'' at Change.org.
This post originally appeared on The Gryphon.