Fallen Angels? Christians and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Today I’m writing over at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s site for women.  I think the topic is a little unexpected if you know me at all—the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.  Since the yearly Fashion Show is tonight, I wanted to share a few ideas about how we can think more critically about our responses to the Victoria’s Secret “Angels,” especially when our responses produce catchphrases like “I’d rather marry a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret Model.”  I hope you like it, friends.

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I never gave much thought to the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show—which airs Tuesday on CBS—until the broadcast a few years ago, when my college students came to class buzzing about a new catchphrase their classmates coined: I’d rather marry a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model. It became an overnight sensation on social media.

These students went on to launch the Live31 Movement, encouraging women to live out the characteristics of the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 and promoting their cause with T-shirts and hashtags. Like most online campaigns, Live31 fizzled fairly quickly, but the dichotomy the campaign endorsed—the Proverbs 31 wife vs. the Victoria’s Secret model—has stuck with me over the past few years. Why was it so easy to come up with that, to position the Victoria’s Secret model as the perfect foil to the Proverbs 31 woman?

If you haven’t watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show before, here’s a quick primer: for one hour of primetime television, Victoria’s Secret showcases its lingerie alongside couture designs, many of which are seriously bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. (The show’s highlights include a $10 million “fantasy bra.”)

They feature musical performances in tandem with the catwalk parade, plus behind-the-scenes interviews with the Angels themselves. It’s a visual spectacle, for sure, but not necessarily a sex parade. About 10 million viewers tune in each December, and in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old age group, the show draws in twice as many women than men.

As a Christian feminist, I recognize how the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is problematic for women. It’s fairly easy to critique with respect to tokenism and negative body image. But when I saw advertisements for this year’s show, I felt guilty about my own judgments about the character of the beautiful women designated as “Angels.” Like Katelyn Beaty in a recent Her.meneutics piece, I’ve worked hard to rethink my own prejudices against beautiful women, Victoria’s Secret models included…

You can read the rest over at Her.meneutics.

(And be sure to click around and read some of the other posts if you’ve never visited Her.meneutics before.  This site is an honest-to-God treasure trove of thoughtful cultural commentary on women in mainstream Christianity.  

I’m honored to share a little online space with them today.)