Do women exist just to be fantasies for men?

Recently, Victoria’s Secret has been very present in the news, but not because of the recent VS Fashion Show, filled with a number of scantily clad women and undergarments. They’ve actually been in the news for the comments from the Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek.

Upon being asked about the company’s diversity; “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show?”, Ed Razek replied, “No. No, I don’t think we should… Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader...We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t."

To put it frankly, the comment is disgusting. As other brands are understanding the shift in consumerism towards ethical consumption, both in an environmental way and a sociocultural way, Victoria’s Secret has demonstrated that their brand is solely intended for women who fit within a specific norm, which doesn’t happen to be the majority of women.

Ellie Longman-Rood, a contributor at The Phoenix, commented, “a company with such a large outreach should be spreading a more positive message-- that health and happiness are more important than being able to squeeze into a tiny pair of underwear.”

As well, the comment is a clear assumption. Perhaps for Razek, transwomen, or plus size women are not present in his sexual fantasies. That, however, does not mean they don’t exist within others’, and to exclude them is a dangerous assumption that contributes to the higher rates of rape, violence, and prejudice against women who deviate from the norm. Razek, hopefully, is not aware of the sexual fantasies of many other people, which may very well include transwomen or plus size women. All women, all bodies, are worthy and deserving of love.

The major point, however, is that women are not defined by their ability to be present in the sexual fantasies of men. We exist outside of our breasts, our asses, our hips or lips. We exist outside of a fashion show where the supposed ‘fantasy’ woman (white, skinny, straight hair, heteronormative) struts in bras and underwear. Women are not fantasies. We are flesh and blood, we are dark skinned, light skinned, mixed, gay, bi, pan, trans, plus size, skinny, healthy, unhealthy, disabled, abled, and on and on.

I love wearing lingerie, and I love feeling sexy. I think most women do. But I also know that my sexiness, or my lingerie, is not what defines me. I know that for my partner, I exist beyond a sexual fantasy, and that’s a foundation for mutual respect in our relationship. The assumption that women exist as a fantasy, and thus must conform to the norm or be excluded, is a foundation for inequality, exclusion, and discrimination, as well as a perpetuation of a culture that defines women solely by their looks and bodies.

Razek has since apologized for his comment, but we all know that only occurred as a result of the PR nightmare he created for Victoria’s Secret. What we also know is that Razek has a very clear view of what a ‘sexy woman’ is, but that we, as women who don’t fit his fantasy, are better than a man like that. Longman-Rood, in a conversation about this topic, summed up my feelings about this best when she said, “the only thing you should be trying to fulfill when it comes to the way you look is yourself.”