Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

November 30, 2011

Political Theory


On November 29, just over 10 million people were overcome with the feeling that Christmas had come early.  This feeling, of course, was the result of the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show which aired on CBS.  Whether those watching chose to do so to admire the fashion, watch Jay Z, Kanye West, Maroon 5, and Nicki Minaj perform, or simply just to drool on themselves at the sight of some of the world’s most beautiful women, is an answer that only each individual that tuned in can provide.  I, admittedly, tuned in with the intention to drool on myself and watch the live musical performances, but the concept of this particular fashion show got me thinking.

Victoria's Secret Model Miranda Kerr sports a $2.5 million bra

In class we ‘ve recently talked about John Rawls and his arguments surrounding  the concept of inequality.  Rawls seems to be adamant that the natural differences between humans’ is ultimately what create inequalities within society.  While I agree with his argument, I tried to step back and look at the bigger picture.  In regards to the models that are selected to walk the runway, Rawls is absolutely correct, the more physically appealing you are the better your chances.  What threw me off, however, was how exactly the musical performances during the fashion show were reflecting these physical inequalities. The artists Jay Z, Kanye West, and Nicki Minaj are not national stars because of their appearance, but rather because of their vocal skills (or lack thereof for you anti-rap advocates).

So I asked, who is it that creates these inequalities?  Yes, you can say that the models are genetically superior to most women, and therefore no one decided.  But what of the artists?   Genetics did not decide to make them social icons, society did.  Society creates, supports, and maintains social inequalities that are not always associated with physical prowess.  We decided that rapping is a desirable skill, and consequently propelled artists such as Jay Z up the ladder of social stardom.  A similar situation applies to professional athletes.  Society decided to label those that are better at putting a ball into a hoop or goal as more capable or above average as compared to the rest of us.

Jay Z and Kanye West perform a song off their new album "Watch the Throne"

I was curious to think what Rawls would have said in regards to putting the Victoria’s Secret Models on the same stage as multiple other social icons.  Social icons, that gained their popularity through entirely different means, modeling and singing.  Would Rawls waiver at all in his beliefs?  One with no knowledge of American society may have determined that to be popular in America, women must wear little clothing and men must have the ability to run around on a stage while screaming into a microphone.  Only a member of modern society would be able to pinpoint the exact reasons for Jay Z or Miranda Kerr’s popularity.

I am not denouncing musical artists, professional athletes, or supermodels, as I am without question a fan of all three, but is it fair to say we fall victim to inequality from the moment we’re born?  Everyone is born with different qualities, but I believe it is society, rather than the characteristics themselves, that deem one man as better off than another.  So first I ask you, what would Rawls have to say in general about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show? Would he condemn society for supporting it?  Additionally, what do you think of the argument that attributes social inequalities to society rather than to genetic differences? Finally, how would Rawls explain the social prowess of individuals such as musical artists, seeing that they are successful for reasons that extend beyond one’s physical prowess?

Yes, it is perfectly normal to lose all train of thought, and question why you decided to major in something other than photography after viewing this photo.

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7 Comments on “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”

  1. nasearc Says:

    I like your post and I agree that Rawls would think that the fashion show was supporting inequalities. I believe that Rawls would condemn the Victoria secret fashion show and say that it creates a standard for women that glorifies certain attributes. However I believe that inequalities result from society and genetics. I believe that society deems certain qualities better than others, but that ultimately it is our genetics that determine what qualities we have. Yet, I do think that music artists and athletes can be good because of hard work rather than genetics. I believe that practice and dedication can help people improve skills and qualities. However I believe that Rawls would disagree with me. I believe that Rawls would say that society makes the inequalities that people have. Rawls would say that society deems music artists, athletes, and super models better than others, thus creating the inequalities we all have.

  2. Brian Hall Says:

    I agree with nasearc in that inequalities stem both from natural causes and societal influences. Certainly all men are not created equal. People are born with a seemingly random distributon of genes that code for a set of traits and physical characteristics. One person may be naturally taller and more muscular than another, and another may simply have an extremely symmetrical face. The value that society arbitrarily assigns to certain traits is what leads to a person’s success or failure. Certainly society has had a very bizzare and confounding effect on natural selection.

    I think Rawls would probably be ironically amused by the Victoria’s Secret show, as it glorifies an aspect of humanity his philosophy is not particularly concerned with; the entire concept of supermodels and professional athletes smacks of social darwinism, but I think it engages something in all of us subconciously that we can’t avoid. We are all still biological organisms, and the idea of the importance of genetic inequality is intrinsic to our being. It is interesting to consider what effect genetic engineering will have in the future on societal values when it comes to physical attractiveness or athletic abilities. I suppose it depends on who has access to the technology; that is, whether only the rich can afford to have perfect babies, or whether everyone could choose what their children will be like. A bit disturbing to think about, but I guess none of us will have to worry about it since the technology is still probably half a century away.

  3. jrmeller Says:

    In our society, we put great deal of importance on our entertainment. We put celebrities on a pedestal, thus making them seem to be of greater worth. Rawls wouldn’t like the idea of a show that flaunts “genetically superior” supermodels, as being better than the average woman, but there is also a bigger picture. Yes these women are absolutely gorgeous, but that cannot be held against them, which sometimes is, but they can also serve as motivation for other women, to improve themselves. I do not wish to sound sexist when I say that, I mean that these women can help others living unhealthy lifestyles strive for a better alternative. But I digress, I don’t think the fashion show is a display of inequality, but a celebration of beauty.
    I don’t think comparing a fashion show to political equality is quite fair though. Yes, Rawls spoke against inequality, but as humans we naturally place preferences, especially to people. I find it hard to believe that Rawls treated everyone he came across equally, and that every woman he encountered he found equally attractive, he most certainly had preferences. And while political equality is incredibly important, as human beings we are going to hold people to different standards and prefer some to others.

  4. lkpeacock Says:

    The Victoria’s Secret fashion show’s selection of entertainment most definitely highlights the excelled and famous people in their field whether it be modeling or singing. I think in both cases they social inequalities and genetic differences contribute to their success and fame.

    The models are no doubt born with genes the fit the standard (or above the standard) of beautiful women. They have no say in what they look like, unless they get plastic surgery of course. However, to become a Victoria;s Secret model, you have to have the right connections, afford to live somewhere that will enhance your modeling career, and be chosen out of other beautiful women based on opinions of judges.

    Kanye West and Nicki Minaj also are genetically born with better voices, and are more inclined to succeed in music rather than science or another field. Yet, the family they are born into also can have a say in their career or their extra activities as a young child that will encourage them to become a rapper or music artist. They are chosen by the public to succeed or not based on their ability to book concerts and sell records.

    Rawls would most likely dislike the fashion show because it highlights talents that are extreme based mainly on genetic make-up and the whole program is not very intellectual but only purely entertaining. The show celebrates the genes among a small group of people only highlighting the unfairness among our society.

  5. lnk72792 Says:

    I enjoyed your post and agree with your statement on inequalities. I also believe that Rawls would argue that the fashion show was supporting these inequalities. Such a televised event broadcasts the models’ perfectness, and can actually make some feel self conscious about their own figures. This shouldn’t be attributed to genetics though. The phrase “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” really applies. Beauty is extremely subjective; not everyone agrees that one particular person is gorgeous, it is a matter of opinion. Therefore, it is really society that makes people believe that there are inequalities. I think that this is a huge problem we face, but in reality, there is no turning back…

  6. maddycaroline Says:

    The whole point of the show is to express these inequalities, to show the world what this company can do and how it is superior over all others. But, isn’t that the point of any other advertisement? Having physically superior women strut along a runway in their underwear is proving just this. Rawls would believe that the fashion show is supporting inequalities, because it is society that waits every year for the show to take place and sits in front of their television for an hour watching it. They were naturally born ‘beautiful’ (or what society deems as beautiful), as Kanye and Jay-Z were born with the ability to entertain. It is not just physical prowess that comes naturally, it is also talent. Some people can try and try all their life to learn a sport, while others perfect it in a few hours. The saying that ‘everyone is born equal’ is not quite true. I believe that, yes, everyone is born with certain talents but do not necessarily posses all of them. Hard work and time can only get you so far if you are not born with the natural ability. In reality, society can never really be as ‘fair’ as Rawls wants it to be. Differences in life are what makes it unfair, and without differences, what would life really be? There would be no leadership, no advancement, no entertainment…etc. While the victoria’s secret fashion show highlights both natural inequalities and societal inequalities on a grand scale, it is possible to view these inequalities in everyday life by just considering what talents you have in comparison to another. I am not condoning societal inequalities, but I do think that people should be so shocked that they exist.

  7. madelinedunn Says:

    The phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder plays a large role in my response to this post. I do not believe that these models are in any way genetically superior to the average women. What happened to the days when a women with curves was viewed as more beautiful? Who says that having big boobs and a small midriff is what should be considered attractive? This has become a social constructed concept and, luckily, is not held by the entire population.
    Yes, these women have certain ‘assets’ that allow them to become supermodels. Don’t forget that all of us here at the University of Michigan have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest and the best. Couldn’t this be considered an inequality? Furthermore, since no one is created with the same natural talents or nurtured with the same grace aren’t we all unequal to each other? If you concur, then this creates a general equality among the population as a whole.
    If we disregarding this evidence that creates ambiguous connotations for the term inequality, we can see that maybe these models are living the dream which could be considered unfair by some. To this I say we all dig a little bit deeper past our superficial layers and realize that everyone has been given talents of their own that will come in handy if they have not yet provided to be useful.

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