Victoria’s Standard: the forever fluid goal of beauty

I’ll never pretend to understand the reason behind airing the Victoria Secret Fashion Show on prime time television, just like I’ll never pretend I understand quantum physics. When it was on the other night, I had friends* — mostly female, strangely enough — who tuned in to watch abnormally-sized models strut down a walkway in little more than their birthday suits while Nicki Minaj autotuned her way through one of her hits.

*I apologize to those friends for judging them, but if you could please leave a comment explaining why you watched the show, I’d appreciate the enlightenment!

Earlier today, I read an article titled “Victoria, We’ve Got Our Own Secret” an article written by Ryan Beckler of onwardstate.com. It discussed how the models in the fashion show didn’t represent how real men want their women to look; someone 6’1” and a hundred pounds could stand to gain a few, to Beckler:

 If you think you’re impressing men with pointy hips and no butt, I have some bad news: it’s not attractive. I’m sure the male population is behind me when I say that we prefer curves.

Hmm…somehow I doubt he’s really talking for all men; I mean, Orlando Bloom apparently likes sticks. So does Adam Levine.

Still, I liked this article. Really, I did. Except it had one flaw. For a writer trying to emphasize how every woman is beautiful, he continually ragged on those who have achieved what I call the “Victoria’s Standard.”

Our standard of beauty is so transient that complying with it is like trying to catch lightening in a bottle. One day, stick straight hair is considered beautiful (I liked that standard a lot), but the next time you open a copy of Glamour magazine, tight curls are back in. Blue eye shadow used to be the norm; now we look for winged liner. The only concrete thing about the standard of beauty is that it’s completely fluid.

As “Casablanca” plays on my TV right now, I see Ingrid Bergman, one of the most beautiful film actresses in history, and think of how she isn’t a long, thin stick. At 5’9″ and an average weight (the number is undocumented), she provided 1940s moviegoers with a soft, glowing figure.

She had talent, too. And Rick.

The classic case is of course Marilyn Monroe, who was reportedly a size 16, although back then that was more like today’s size 8. In “Some Like It Hot” she was pregnant and still smoking hot, even if she couldn’t remember her lines.

The line was “Where’s the bourbon?” and she still couldn’t remember it.

In more recent development, I turn to my new watch-as-many-episodes-as-I-can-in-a-day show, AMC’s “Mad Men.” The subject: Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway.

If you’ve watched “Firefly,” particularly the episode where Hendricks plays Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ deceptive bride, you’ve seen her in her pixie-like state. Now, she’s the 5’7″ 36″-24″-36″ goddess of the Sterling Cooper ad agency, dripping with self-confidence and sharp intelligence.

I would have watched the VS Fashion Show if Jean had been there to tell them all this.

I’ll close by saying this: Ryan Beckler’s article has some merit, but he made the mistake of excluding those who have achieved what our culture views as beautiful. Why does there have to be only one state of beauty? If Victoria’s Standard is so fluid, everyone should have the ability to be incorporated into this canon of glamour and attractiveness created by the men and — just as equally — women of our world.

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3 Comments

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  1. Great post! So true and of course I love Firefly references. I heard recently that the average woman is 5′ 4″ and 140 lbs. whereas the average model is 5′ 11″ and 120 lbs. I’m not hating on women who are that size but the media excludes nearly everyone else from the category of “beautiful.”

  2. I love watching The VS show every year! I think the models are gorgeous, but they definitely could stand to gain a few pounds. I think that the whole fashion part of it is amazing, too: look at some of the stuff designed for the show and how detailed it is. As a side note: Orlando Bloom cheering on his wife was adorable.

  3. Ryan Beckler goes on and on in his article that girls need to eat more, however I wonder what he would be saying if the VS models were 250 pounds instead of 110. Would he still be saying they should eat more? Or would he be saying the opposite? Christina Hendricks and Marilyn Monroe are two of my favorite actresses of all time, mainly because of their curves. Still though, culture has a hard time accepting plus sized women. I completely understand the need to be healthy, however some plus sized women are beautiful and ARE healthy. Stick thin people are now (thankfully) seen as abnormal (though there are people out there who are just naturally skinny and can’t help it), but there still seems to be a bigger stigma for women who are larger than a size 10. I just wish Beckler would have addressed those of us who are on the larger side and tell us we are fine too.

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