Bella Hadid has recently made headlines after she admitted to Womenswear daily that she ‘never felt powerful’ whilst walking the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. In the candid interview, Hadid confessed that her recent stint in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show was the first time she felt comfortable posing in her underwear. Rihanna’s show sought to celebrate models of all ages, shapes and races, something not typically visible in Victoria’s Secret’s. However, as Hadid exposes the discomfort she felt whilst modelling as an angel, the timeless question is raised again: are women’s lingerie shows inherently objectifying?
There is often two camps of thought when it comes to shows such as these. At worst they can be seen as an objectifying fantasy catwalk show, and at best can be explained as an empowering platform where women can own their sexuality. The former is rooted in the view that lingerie shows are a male curated collection of women parading their half-naked bodies, as they attempt to sell lingerie to the masses. Many view this as belittling to women, as they are reduced to just their bodies.
However, this can be seen as an oversimplification of the entire genre of lingerie within fashion shows. As for Victoria’s Secret, many of those who make repeated appearances on the show such as Taylor Hill and Adriana Lima, all frequently use the term ‘empowerment’ to describe their experiences. Modelling is one of few careers in which women earn far greater wages than men and it undeniably takes hard work and rigorous training to gain a position walking, which showed be respectively celebrated.
However, the show’s inability to reflect modern ideals of diverse beauty is clearly evident in its plummeting interest. There has been a shift in desires for inclusivity, and the show’s narrow conception of beauty isn’t cutting it anymore. Victoria’s Secret’s inability to step into the 21st century, and its insistence of keeping the show to fit an apparent ‘fantasy’ has recently resulted in its shocking cancellation after twenty-three years of running.
Positively, many brands have started to incorporate a more body diverse sample of models, helping to encourage far more women to flaunt their sexuality on their own accord and no one else’s. This more modern take is evident in the Aerie and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show, which showcase a variety of races, ages, ethnicities, abilities and more. The shows themselves are far less rigid as models are allowed to walk in the way they please. It is a more clear cut celebration of models alike as it was clearly created through the female lens rather than a platform in which they are able to be gawked at.
So, do I think lingerie fashion shows are always objectifying? No. However, the Victoria’s Secret mould and its copycats are outdated. In the diverse approach taken on by Rihanna and other modern shows, all kinds of beauty are honoured. Ultimately, as shown by Hadid, it works.