Emily Wilson

R.I.P. Self-Esteem: On the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted on Emily’s blog at emwilsonmusic.com.

“Time to starve because VS Fashion Show is the 10th!”

“Nothing can make me feel so inferior as a woman than looking at pictures of VS Angels.”

“Like I don’t even feel upset that I don’t look like a VS Model, I feel suicidal.”

“RIP self esteem.”

I’ve been thinking about writing a piece about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show for a while now as it will be airing Tuesday, December 10th. To commence the research for this, I took to Twitter to read what girls say about it. All of the above is what I found as well as lots, lots more.

So where do I begin?

The feelings of insufficiency this show cultivates in young women crushes me deeply every. single. year.

If you are unaware, this show is a major event among girls all over the world. Girls throw parties to watch together and social media blows up over the event. Girls claim it makes them feel “girly” and love to get in the spirit of the show. But this show is not exactly known for the product it is “selling” – it is known for something very different – its effect on the self-esteem of young women everywhere.

As is apparent in the tweets above and the hundreds of others that are posted on the evening of the show, this show has a horrific effect on the self-image of young women. The “angels” in the show are beautiful yet very thin supermodels who, by society’s standards, have achieved perfection of their bodies. They have long limbs, gorgeous faces, and stunning smiles.

These models are said to spend hours working out, intensely watching their diet to prepare for the show. In a UK Telegraph article about Angel Adriana Lima, she states that for nine days before the show, she doesn’t eat any solid food. She works out twice a day and drinks a gallon of water. This is not a normal lifestyle for anyone who holds a normal job, goes to school, has a family, etc.

Yet to girls who see these angels, it’s real. It is attainable and they haven’t attained it. This cultivates and magnifies the lie many girls just cannot shake… “I am not enough.” The perpetuation of this lie that takes place in many girls because of the fashion show is tremendously sad and very unhealthy. The amount of self-criticism that grows from this can be damaging in many different ways.

While I am crushed by the show, I am also always angry about it, too. There is ceaseless talk about women’s empowerment in our culture yet the media continues to glorify the treatment of women as sex objects. This focus has led to so many immense struggles for women – too many to name them all – and it has become so commonplace that we hardly notice it anymore.

There is unrelenting noise about empowerment, but there are so few women leaders standing up for the everyday women and teen girls who are hurting, lost, and affected terribly by the media. We need more powerful women who stand up and talk honestly and openly about what true beauty is and why it is important to focus on it. We need more women who, whatever walk of life they live, truly empower women by helping them believe in beauty – the true definition of it.

With all that said, my advice to women everywhere… don’t watch the show. Love yourself enough to know that you are not the sum of what you look like. Spend time focusing on loving you for you, not trying to be another girl. You have a soul, you have dreams, and you have so much to offer the world – I truly don’t believe this show helps any woman remember that or know that more deeply in her spirit.

Even if you consider yourself to be a woman who is unaffected by these images and confident in your looks and body, watching it at all supports the culture of sex and selling women. There is no way around that. We, as women, need to take a stand against it – to let the world know that it is not okay to treat women this way.

I also have a plea for men… please don’t watch the show. It is apparent that you aren’t watching to see the new products, and whether we as humans realize it or not, watching something like that normalizes those images in our head – and most girls don’t look like that.

The way this show presents women as sex objects further cultivates that lie in the minds of men – that women can and should be looked at as things, not people. This lie strongly affects the way you see women which has the power to ruin your relationships, influence the way the women around you see themselves, and perpetuates our sad, pathetic pornographic culture that is completely destroying our world.

When I asked my boyfriend his thoughts for men regarding the show, he told me that to men it’s obviously all about the women and not about the “clothing,” making it a lust show rather than a fashion show. I could not agree more. What we truly need is more men in the world who look at women for their true beauty rather than lusting after them. We desperately need men like that.

In my ministry I have talked to enough young men to know that the struggle you face if you are trying to be a man of integrity in this world is often so intense it cannot even be put into words. As a woman, I know I cannot understand that struggle of constant bombardment of pornography and incessant presentation of women as sex objects when trying to stay away from that.

I may not understand… but I have met enough good, strong, amazing men to know that it is possible to be a man who honors women in this culture. It is possible and you are accountable for being a man who lives virtue, who seeks to encourage, respect, and uplift women in everything you do.

In closing, when it comes to self-esteem and body image, I always encourage the young women I meet to live a healthy lifestyle. Balance is important. Balance is wonderful. Be active, go on hikes, find what you love that keeps you healthy and strong. If that’s surfing, great. If that’s boxing, great. But go out to eat your favorite awesome burger and fries every once in a while. Eat some peppermint bark and have fun. Be good to your body and focus on being healthy and strong rather than being perfect.

Most importantly, just shine on. Shine on like the glorious girls you are, perfect the way God made you no matter what you look like.

Know that you are joyful and radiant. Believe in yourselves and your power to affect change in this world. As I have told you before – believe in the grace that you were created for a divine and altogether stunning purpose. Know that you are enough – more than enough – exactly as you are in this moment – living, moving, and breathing in the hands of a good, good God. And never forget to keep your hearts up.

Emily Wilson

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