A lot has changed in the space of two to three years. With the #MeToo movement, we’ve witnessed somewhat of a cultural shift and the public dialogue around gender inequality has never been so heated. Some would argue that the 1970s witnessed a similar awakening, yet something feels altogether different this time around.
This thinking comes with the recent news that Victoria’s Secret’s sales are in decline, and it’s little wonder. The women’s lingerie label famed for its goddess-like female ambassadors, aired its annual fashion show at the height of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in November 2017 and its ratings sunk by 30 percent and as YouGov’s Paul Hiebert put it, “hitting a new low for the broadcast.” Can this really be a coincidence?
When you consider how the brand positions itself, with its aggressively airbrushed bombshells (with thigh gap you could drive a bus through, no hint of body hair or any sort of body ripple) and their lusty come-hither looks, it seems almost retrograde at best, anti-feminist at worst. But, who are they targeting? These soft-core fantasies certainly are not aimed at the average woman, surely.
Image courtesy: Victoria’s Secret
In saying that, they have been successful for so long, so what’s changed?
Could it be that there’s a direct link between Victoria’s Secret’s falling stock and the rise of the #MeToo movement? What began as a vehicle for women to commiserate and form unity around sexual misconduct, has evolved to #MeToo becoming a rallying cry, calling for greater accountability and a repudiation of the culture of secrecy and shame that has allowed gender inequality to flourish in the workplace.
And with this an unwavering display of female empowerment has surfaced, leading women to feel that they no longer need to succumb to the fantasies of men. Think endless displays of pretty femininity: pert, high breasts, mixed with flirty pouting visuals that—let’s face it—is a complete falsity.
Instead, it would seem that the tide is turning on such flagrantly sexist, over-sexualised brands like Victoria’s Secret. Could it be that women are finally demanding to take back control over their femininity and bras—breasts—are the ultimate symbol of a woman’s femininity; conflicting heavily with Victoria’s Secret bras that are the idolised, even fetishised, male version of that.
With the decline of boob-emphasising, push-up bra styles that were so popular in the 90s, there’s been an increase in popularity of the bralettes, triangle and sports bras that focus more on comfort and functionality than enticing attention. And we couldn’t help but celebrate that.
The same can be said for the female self-care industry. For too long products designed specifically for women have been advertised in a way that merely hints at our femininity, for fear that both sexes couldn’t be presented with the gory true.
`This is now changing and about time, too. Billie, a female-first shave and body brand delivering everyday TLC from top to toe was in the spotlight last week after it aired an ad that—shock horror—showed women in their true state with actual body hair, under the mantle #ProjectBodyHair.
We’re constantly taught to be ashamed of this naturally occurring part of ourselves—to the point where it has never been directly shown in advertising until now. Billie intends to change this, launching #ProjectBodyHair to encourage women everywhere to take pride in what’s rightfully theirs.
Image courtesy: Lara Intimates
And if you love your body hair so much that you don’t want to shave it, Billie’s working to cover all the angles on female body positivity and self-care.
One socially conscious brand to another, Billie is not alone. A new spate of lingerie startups have emerged with a dramatically different narrative. Rather than gratify the male gaze, up-and-comers like Naja, Lara Intimates, Anekdot, Vege Threads and Lonely Lingerie are turning comfort, empowerment, ethical business practices and body inclusivity into the new sexy.
A future with no more body shaming and a lot more female empowerment. Now, how great would that be?