A Victory for Victoria's Secret?

March 29, 2014
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By Lea Z. Singh |
For a shocking photo of how bad it can get, click here.
I couldn't post that photo because I don't have rights to it.
This photo is from the Creative Commons online.
Look out stroller moms, our weekday hunting grounds are about to get a lot more racy. Victoria's Secret has come to town. A massive store will open at the Rideau Centre in May, taking up a whopping 10,000 square feet of second-floor retail space. One floor down, Victoria’s Secret will be opening PINK, which is specifically targeted at teenage and even pre-teen girls. These two stores have also just moved into Bayshore Shopping Centre, where my wee tots and I often spend our rainy, freezing or scorching Ottawa days.

Yes, Bayshore and the Rideau Centre have existing lingerie stores, and it has not been easy to keep my children’s eyes away from the couple of store fronts that feature oversized provocative posters of nearly-nude women. But Victoria’s Secret and PINK are about to challenge the G-rating of our malls at a whole new level.

For one thing, there will now be twice as many lingerie stores, and the new ones are huge, with a lot of window space. Then there is the more aggressive advertising that comes with Victoria’s Secret. But most disturbing is PINK: the blatant retailing of lingerie to young girls.

Just last year, PINK caused an uproar when it launched a line of sexy underwear for teen and pre-teen girls, printed with phrases such as “feeling lucky”, “I dare you”, “let’s make out” and “call me.” Are these the kinds of products we want our daughters to wear? At a time when young girls are under growing pressure to be sexy, we are only upping the ante by introducing stores like PINK into our malls.

In 2012 the CBC exposed the alarming consequences of growing up in our “porn culture” in a disturbing documentary entitled “Sext Up Kids”. According to that program, “as girls hit puberty, they start seeing themselves as objects of someone else's needs and desires.” Teen girls are not only getting more promiscuous, they are increasingly acting like porn stars on Youtube videos and “sexting” photos of themselves to boys - pictures that eerily evoke Victoria’s Secret lingerie models. The results: negative outcomes in “mental health, depression, self-esteem.”

The marketing of stores like Victoria’s Secret and PINK affects everyone. For men and boys, many of whom are already under the influence of online pornography, it is public confirmation that women are eye-candy - objects of pleasure in shiny wrappers, performers for men’s sexual entertainment. In the Rideau Centre, only steps away from Parliament Hill, the irony of our cultural schizophrenia could not be more stark. Female MPs surely walk through this mall together with male colleagues; watch the men try to carry on a conversation while dodging the stare of gigantic women in lacy bras.

This is the 21st century, and we teach our daughters that they can become anything from prime ministers and CEOs to soldiers and fire fighters. At the same time, our culture is training them from an early age to think of themselves as objects for men's sexual pleasure. Even young children like my two daughters and son are being indoctrinated with these lessons as we walk past X-rated displays on our way to the toy store, the pet store or the food court.

If we are truly concerned about what is happening to our young people, then why are we welcoming soft-core pornography into our public spaces? Perhaps many of us want to be progressive, and protesting would tarnish our hipster image. Or have we just gotten numb to the imagery - doesn’t anything shock us anymore? Have we resigned to the fact that our daughters will eventually start reducing themselves to their bodies, and that teenage hangout spots will market provocative underwear? Some parents might even encourage their girls to get sexy, maybe as a way to be popular rather than invisible.

Whatever reason we have for letting our malls slide into soft porn, it is a serious mistake. There is clear evidence that oversexualization is harming our young people, and the damage will continue even if we ignore it. I don’t expect to see street riots against Victoria’s Secret and PINK (it would be nice), but I do wonder what makes us so complacent. The time to stomp out this spreading fire in our malls is now.


Photo Credit: Ambernectar 13 via photopin cc

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