The New York Times just took a deep dive into Megan Rapinoe’s turn as a brand ambassador for Victoria’s Secret, which has been about as good for women’s empowerment as second-hand smoke.
Turns out the bra and panty shop, which sold women a packaged, polyester male fantasy, is having a hard time evolving.
Or as Rapinoe described it in the New York Times:
It was, Ms. Rapinoe said bluntly, “patriarchal, sexist, viewing not just what it meant to be sexy but what the clothes were trying to accomplish through a male lens and through what men desired. And it was very much marketed toward younger women.” That message, she said, was “really harmful.”
So why would Rapinoe do this?
I hope it is for the cash. The idea of an LGBTQ icon, who is (forgive me, Edward R. Murrow, for objectifying an athlete) sexy as hell, but not for the usual VS wank, getting filthy rich off a massive brand’s desperate attempt to freshen up is delicious. Gay women didn’t exist for the old version of the brand. Imagine, selling lingerie to women who lust after the woman on the poster, and this time, at least in the abstract, she might like them back.
I hope Rapinoe is taking wads of angel cash and spending it on things both frivolous and serious. I hope she is buying Sue Bird a pair of feathery wings that weigh 40 pounds and are covered in Elton John’s old rhinestones. I hope she buys a WNBA team with it, just not the Storm because it would be weird to be Sue’s boss.
I hope she gives fistfuls of money to #metoo and donates to pro LGTBQ+ politicians and funds the lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation with that sweet, sweet thong money. I hope each time someone says “no one cares about women’s sports,” Victoria’s Secret has to Venmo a $100 donation to the Women’s Sports Foundation in Rapinoe’s name.
Rapinoe is the hottest thing in branding right now. She is working with Mendi, a CBD oil brand as well. Rapinoe should sell it all. Put her in a GMC pickup truck with an enormous watch on her arm and sell me a laundry detergent. All of it. All. Of. It.
Victoria’s Secret is years late to this epiphany, and in the meantime, there are several women-directed lingerie companies that use diverse models of all ages and sizes; Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, ThirdLove, SheFit and Thistle & Spire, to name a few.
If you’re anything like me, you won’t miss the vicarious horror that came along with stories on how the Victoria’s Secret Angels “trained” for game day, aka the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
In this Daily Mail story on the fashion show, it reported that Adriana Lima didn’t eat solid food for nine days prior, and then didn’t have any liquid 12 hours before the show.
There was even a quasi-official Angel diet, which was a pleasant fiction for the more human of the species, as though getting eight hours of sleep and skipping pizza would have the same effect as a pack of cigarettes and a liquid diet.
The economic success of Victoria’s Secret was based on a human centipede of denied lust. The company put pieces of lingerie (often much nicer than the items sold in stores) on calorie-deprived models to appeal to cisgender men, but then actually sold the lingerie to women who wanted to appeal to those men.
If that seems messed up, feel free to check the NYT article for details on how the men at the top of Victoria’s Secret may have had ties to Jeffrey Epstein. In 2018, one the chief marketing officer said that a transgender model wasn’t in line with the brand.
The brand just reeked of leering old man energy.
Rapinoe is a different kind of fantasy for women. She is powerful and unapologetic. She has attained a level of excellence based on what she can do, not what she looks like or how many men want to get into her DMs. She is stunning in how well she has honed her physical body to do this one thing – play soccer.
The male gaze is irrelevant.
Does she appeal to a woman who has any interest in Victoria’s Secret? Will she inspire gender-neutral people, sports fans and young women to return to a brand tainted by misogyny and hetero-normativity?
Maybe, who knows. Perhaps she can use her influencer cache to force a more responsible corporate culture.
Honestly, who cares about the brand. But I hope those checks cash.