On 4th December, the Daily Mail published an article by Sarah Vine titled "How did 50 years of feminism end in this?" In it Vine explains why she believes that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is more regressive for feminism than Miss World. Now, I know what you're thinking why am I reading the Daily Mail anyway? Surely it's a recipe for getting unnecessarily angry? What more could you expect from the Mail except the spreading of illogical information on feminism? However, my mum always gives me articles that she thinks I'll be interested in reading, and this happened to be the latest one.
My first issue with the piece is that Vine's opening sentence trivialises feminism, "equality is...no excuse not to brush your hair." I get it. I opened the piece on feminism for my school magazine not in a dissimilar way. It is difficult to address Daily Mail readers about feminism without alienating them completely. However, Vine's derogatory attitude towards the 'stereotypical' feminist- "it is perfectly possible to make it in a man's world without looking like one"- contrasts starkly to her criticisms of the Victoria's Secret models, who, according to Vine are perfectly groomed solely for the pleasure of men.
Personally, I’ve always thought of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as a fashion event. It’s one thing to have the attention of fashion experts and interested teens and another entirely for a gross old man to watch the show and leer at the models whilst touching himself when it’s broadcast on American television. Despite this, the whole idea of feminism is about not having to change our behaviour to “suit” male reaction.
She refers at one point to the models as “female flesh”, suggesting that that is how the models are perceived by the outside world, especially to men. However, I look at them and I see successful and empowered models with personality. The idea of models being “female flesh” is repulsive. Vine states that it is “hard to tell them [the models] apart.” Um, excuse me, have you SEEN Magdalena?!
The comparison to Miss World and the suggestion that Victoria’s Secret makes the former look “almost sweet in its innocence” I also believe to be incorrect. Miss World is about pitting women against each other, breeding animosity between women and breaking down feminism by damaging the unspoken sisterhood. Of course the modelling industry is just as cutthroat, but the Victoria’s Secret show itself is fun and the models are not competing for any title.
However, one point that I’d like to discuss/look into more is the idea that society has coerced women into believing that expression of sexuality is empowering, but that that idea is just another tool used by the patriarchy to keep women in their “role.” Nonetheless, this idea, along with many ideas concerning feminism and gender roles is very heteronormative. Personally, I don’t want to over think it too much because I believe that what we find empowering is down to the individual. I don’t want to stop making myself look nice because I’m worried that it’s just the effects of society “brainwashing” me.
Overall, the article belittles the fashion industry and the women who work within it as dumb, vain and undeserving of any recognition they get. YAWN: that opinion is so old. Furthermore, Vine’s criticism of both ‘stereotypical’ feminists and women who work hard on their appearance limits the choices that women have. Feminism is all about choice. We should be allowed to live our lives how we want without any other voice telling us we’re being “too masculine” or dressing/acting to “please men.” Sometimes I don’t shave for a while. Sometimes I diet. Both of those things are my personal choices and I shouldn’t be seen as a crazy radical or a vanity obsessed bimbo for either of them because it’s nobody else’s business. What I really want to know is how 50 years of feminism has ended in women still being criticised by society for their own personal choices, no matter what those may be.