Victoria’s Not So Secret Sweatshop Labor

Victoria’s secret is a brand that has become a symbol of the sexualization of women. The word “Pink” has transformed into a brand within a brand of Victoria’s Secret. The “Angels” have become the girls next door, the epitome of what a woman should look like and have become superstars through this company. While the slogan is always “very sexy” they also feature on their website a campaign to “love every body,” However, Victoria’s secret had a not so secret production method exposed in 2008 that indicated that maybe they didn’t love every body.

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A workers-rights group reported that a subcontractor in Jordan makes clothing for Victoria’s Secret and is abusing its workers, cheating them of wages and imprisoning them. While Victoria’s Secret isn’t the only corporation that has been reported to use sweatshops, it is interesting that this company is a leader in creating a highly visible beauty standard and uses campaigns like “love every body” to sell this standard.

“A worker gets four cents for a woman’s bikini that sells for 14 U.S. dollars – a fraction of the retail price. In 2006, Victoria’s Secret sales totaled 3.2 billion U.S. dollars from retail outlets alone.”

“The150 laborers — 135 from Bangladesh and 15 from Sri Lanka — work 14-15 hours a day, and get one day off every three to four months, according to the NLC report.”

Just like the feminism T-shirt contradiction, the same contradiction happens in this instance where Victoria’s Secret is saying they can accommodate all women, even up to size triple D bra, but not the women who have to make the triple D bra. In “Just-in-Time Guerilla Warriors” from Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take on the Global Factory, Miriam Ching Louie says, ““Far too often white, middle-class, and First World organizations have demonstrated little accountability to the workers and communities hardest hit by global economic restructuring and corporate greed,” (232). Victoria’s Secret and other “First World organizations” have the ability to make billions of dollars but pay next to nothing to have their products manufactured. On top of this fact, they make huge contradictions in the way they sell not only their products but also their brand and image as a company. There is a large gap between the highly visible Victoria’s Secret Angel and a woman from Bangladesh being imprisoned to make underwear – but both people have a role in the same company. The tastemakers at Victoria’s Secret create a beauty and body ideal that they claim can fit any woman. But the tastemakers only portray “Angels,” not even mortals, to be the face, and body, of the brand. They create a taste (skinny, white, middle-class) but then rely on those who are far from that taste to produce their latest “very sexy” product, and in very dehumanizing conditions. Louie communicates what has been done to challenge “First World organizations” during the 1990s and early 2000s, but today in 2014, where there is more mediated and circulated content, where sweatshops are being used to further a platform such as Feminism and to build PINK – a brand named after a color – how do we negotiate these complicated power structures and the lack of accountability?

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