Facebook Creeps and Lingerie Models

The main part of my job is running social media for a lingerie brand (no surprise as to which one, although I'm keeping the name out of this article to avoid it being search-able), which, of course, includes a Facebook Page. 


Now, people interact with Facebook Pages in certain, often completely bizarre, ways. There are those who "get" that they are currently interacting with a brand or a company in public, and that there is a possibility that their interaction will show up in their friends' timeline. Then there are those that seem to have varying degrees of understanding, ranging from kinda-understand to interactions that I can only assume are from someone completely devoid of social ability. 


Most Page admins will have witnessed this at some point, either from someone posting a completely unrelated comment that seems to be personally directed at someone (I assume they have seen a notification that their friend has "liked" a status/post and assumed that it is a share) or some sort of spam. Or just the equivalent of someone that has wandered into a shop/restaurant/business and started shouting "WHAT IS THIS. WHAT IS THIS. WHAT IS THIS." at the top of their lungs. 


But, you know, all of this is fairly tolerable, or completely insignificant. What I cannot tolerate are crude sexual comments. Either directed at me (well, their version of me - I can only assume that think there is a model sitting behind the computer in her underwear, completely stationary and awoken only when her knight in shining armour says the immortal words "Hey baby") or directed at the models in the images (some of which are my friends, which frustrates me even more. If the comment were made in a pub or club, I'd happily tell them where to shove it. Unfortunately that is considered bad business practice from someone representing a brand). 


(We get about one of these messages a week; I've stopped responding)


This is my JOB, this is WHAT I DO ALL DAY, and just because I work in the lingerie business does not mean I should accept sexual comments. The brand I work for is fairly vanilla (i.e. not very risqué, and mostly fashion-based rather than boudoir-based), the marketing copy I write rarely, if ever, talks about sex. To say that I should expect that kind of response is like saying a woman should expect sexual advances if she shows any skin or wears a short skirt. 


Sure, the comments are not personally aimed at me, because of course nobody knows who I am (for all they know, they could be "Hey baby"ing another man), but it's the sheer number of comments that is grating. If my only knowledge and experience with men was by running this facebook page, I'd be under the impression that all men are akin to rabid dogs desperately pawing at a butcher's window. And that's not how you Gentlemen want to be portrayed, is it?


Most of the comments are probably seen as "harmless fun" or "witty" jokes (the kind your male friends might say to wind you up, apart from these guys are not your friends) - and trust me, I've heard ALL the jokes. But they aren't harmless. Buying lingerie is an intensely personal thing. Women must have a degree of trust with their lingerie retailers, and to me, the retailer has the responsibility to protect their female customers' confidence. And could you imagine buying lingerie in a physical boutique while a man stands in the middle of the room making crude noises and commenting on the body of the models in the posters? Would that make you feel confident, to know that this man is probably comparing you to those models? 


(You'd be surprised how many times we get comments regarding some sort of ownership of the model, and I usually respond in a similar vein.)


And really, what it boils down to, is the inability to disconnect lingerie from sex. The Lingerie Addict wrote about this in her article regarding the response to Victoria Secret's line of lingerie for young women - 


"Lingerie does not always have to be about the boudoir. Yes, it’s fine if it is, but why aren’t we telling young women that you can totally buy that lacy bra and panty set just for you? No one else has to see it. You don’t have to be in a relationship. You don’t have to show it off. You can buy this beautiful lingerie and be completely, awesomely selfish about it, and wear it all by yourself. And that’s not only okay, it’s wonderful."


I couldn't say this better myself. And the way certain men react to images of women in lingerie just encourages this problem. Women see the way certain (keyword: certain. I truly believe that the majority of men do not have this mind-set) men objectify women in lingerie and assume they should only wear lingerie to please men. And even that wearing nice lingerie WITHOUT having a partner is "slutty". There have been so many occasions when I see women write "I wish I could buy this but I have no one to wear it for" and feel like screaming at the computer screen.


Another great lingerie blog, Under the Unders, tackled this subject very well in her post "(Don't) Sex it up". She also mentions that lingerie marketing is also to blame for the inability to separate sex from lingerie, and this is a very good point. I don't care if you buy my lingerie, or a competitor's, as long as you are buying it to make yourself feel good. Having a healthy relationship with lingerie will allow you to truly appreciate your own body in all its glory, and that is more important than sex (that will come along with the confidence!). 


You want to wear that lacy lingerie on a day-to-day basis? Wear it. Wear what YOU want to wear. And this includes wearing plain or sports bras - not wearing lace or frills doesn't make you any less of an attractive woman (but that's a whole other rant!).

Weekend Reading

I tend to use my personal facebook profile as a stress-ball, which often involves posting links to articles that irritate me to no avail.

And then people started telling me to "calm down", which, unless you happen to be a good friend of mine, pisses me off even further. Because you know, you SHOULD get angry about misogyny. You SHOULD get angry about body negativity. Not all of us just value going out and getting drunk, some of us like to share our rage with like-minded people. 

And I also seem to post about lingerie a lot. No surprise there.

So I thought, rather than constantly update my facebook with links to article that range between "WTF" and "ARGH", perhaps I'll put them in a weekly blog post instead.

This week's light reading:


Triumph's Japanese division have created a bra inspired by a new economic planBecause nothing says sexy like economics. Oh yeah, inflate that baby. Also: Company spokeswoman Keiko Masuda was quoted in The Guardian as saying, "we hope that, as the Japanese economy grows, we can also help bust sizes to get bigger." - this sounds vaguely threatening. What is she saying? We hope that we all become richer and therefore get fatter? Get breast implants? What?

 Abercrombie & Fitch surprises no one by admitting that they don't want "plus-sized" (which in this case, is over size 16) customers - And apparently people are outraged by this turn of events.


24 Hour Street Harassment Diary - This article made me go "YES" by the end of it. A good read for any woman that has ever suffered street harassment (I remember two particularly upsetting cases for myself. One was when I was 17 or 18 and wore a just-above-knee-length skirt and skin coloured tights and had about 15 comments and leering looks from men while traveling on the train - and then I cried in the middle of Liverpool Street station and phoned my then-boyfriend to come and get me. The second was when I was waiting outside the Apple store for my boyfriend to finish work. I was wearing a playsuit with skin coloured tights. 3 separate men wouldn't stop harassing me. And that's why I don't wear skin coloured tights let alone BARE LEGS).


What if Gender Roles in Advertising Were Reversed? - Most of this isn't a surprise to me (although I don't think the tame M&S advert should be included, as the issue isn't that the IMAGE is sexualised, it's that many people unfortunately only equate lingerie to sex) but I hadn't seen a handful of these that are particularly shocking. Although the reversal is funny in this case, I don't believe that reversing the stereotypes is the way to equality.


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Some Alternative Valentine's Day Advice

Anita De Bauch, shot by me. This was actually a halloween shoot but hey!


I don't do Valentine's Day.


And it's nothing to do with being single. I've actually been in a romantic relationship for 3 and a half years, and we have never celebrated Valentine's Day. Why? Because we don't believe that you need a "special" (see: marketing gimmick) day to show eachother how we feel. 


I've read some great articles from singletons (particularly love this one from Lea of The High Tea Cast, which is a superb blog) and of course the deluge of Valentine's tips and advice, mainly aimed at men regarding buying lingerie for a female. I've even read a few articles that seem to have the outdated idea that when a man pays for a date, it is then up to the woman to pay him back with sex. 


Now, I'm lucky enough not to have ever dated, or been friends with, a man who thinks that by spending money he is OWED sex (or in fact, owed sex in general). So, much to my dismay, I was surprised to find out that this primitive way of thinking didn't die out in the 1900s. Not only that, but men are being actively encouraged to think like this.


So here is my Valentine's advice, if you so wish to use this one day a year to show that special person (and I'm talking about those of you who are straight, bisexual, homosexual or otherwise inclined - too much Valentine's Day advice/marketing is aimed at men buying for women) you love them:


1. Don't just stop at Valentine's Day.

If you REALLY, really want to get involved on the day, do so, but don't make it a once a year thing. The most romantic gestures are often complete surprises.


 2. You don't need to spend a wad of cash on a dinner date to show you care. 

The best gifts I've ever had are hand-made and meaningful. I'm assuming you know what your partner or date likes, even if it's just their favourite film? Then hand-make (or if you are as useless at drawing as I am, hunt for something someone else hand-made on Etsy) something which will show your partner how much you appreciate and recognise their interests. Humour is great too. 


For example, my boyfriend knows how I love Bioshock, so he crept outside our flat one night and knocked on the door. When I opened the door, there was an empty bottle with a message inside and a box - the message in the bottle said "Would You Kindly Open The Box", inside the box was a Big Daddy toy!  



3. In a straight relationship, it should not be the man's responsibility to buy for the woman. 

This isn't the '50s, it's common for women to be working for their money, and equality goes both ways. It is not acceptable for women to expect a gift from their male partner, just as it is not acceptable for a man to expect sex in return. Girls, I know it's nice to feel spoilt once in a while, but it also feels amazing to do the same for others, including him! The best dates I've had with my partner have been those where we have both paid for and arranged different things throughout the day!


4. How and when to buy a woman lingerie.

I'm actually surprised that the emphasis is put on men buying women lingerie, because I'm pretty sure it's just as difficult for women buying women lingerie. Guys, you are constantly being given patronising advice regarding buying women lingerie, under the pretense that you are incapable of dressing yourself let alone falling head-first into the lingerie sizing jungle. 

 My opinion is that each case is different. There is no "trick" to buying the "right" lingerie for a female partner, because each individual case is different. For example, I've never been bought lingerie because I am ridiculously picky (not to mention have very expensive tastes, which would make me feel uncomfortable if someone were to buy me something from my wishlist). If I were in the dating game and a man bought me lingerie fairly early on in the relationship, I would probably be put off. So, make sure you really know her before you consider buying her something.

And even then, how sexy the lingerie is is a rather dangerous game to play. Unless she's a complete sex kitten, it's probably best to go with something luxurious and well-made rather than full on crotchless briefs and harness. 

 The sizing game is a tough one too. But you don't need to be buying her a bra. There's a whole plethora of lingerie that is much easier to size correctly. If you only have an incredibly vague idea, what about a silk chemise? Also, so many brands do little easy gifts now (including *cough* these Beauty Queen Pin Up Tins from Playful Promises), usually knickers that have enough stretch to be vaguely sized as small, medium or large. Alternatively, go to a small independent lingerie boutique and ask for help - the ladies that work there will be more than happy to give you some ideas. 


Also, for those fellas reading.

How Women Are Portrayed in Lingerie Campaigns

It's my job to market lingerie for a small brand. Because of this, and because of my interest in marketing and lingerie as two separate things, I'm particularly interested in how different brands use different campaigns.


One of the obvious (and irritating) points you see cropping up again and again is that lingerie is something to make men happy.


One of my favourite lingerie blogs, The Lingerie Lesbian, addresses this in a few of her articles, including "What It's Like To Be a Lesbian in the Lingerie Industry" and "What Lingerie Isn't About: Why I Hate Compulsory Femininity". I love her blog because it's a fresh viewpoint that I have NEVER seen before in the lingerie industry. I'm not a lesbian, but that doesn't even matter, what matters is that I'm reading an article about lingerie by a woman that is completely un-connected to men. And that's what we need more of.


Our society is plagued by self-confidence and body snark, and the way lingerie is being sold to us is just adding to this insecurity. I'm not talking about the models used (I think that my opinion as to why models are not to blame is a whole different post, but let's just say that people have an incredibly warped view of what size 0 is, and it IS rare to see a size 0 model) but the way they are used. Two particular things irritate me beyond belief:

1. Female sexuality as something that can only be harnessed (no pun intended) by men.

2. "Real Women" wear lingerie.


As The Lingerie Lesbian points out, homoeroticism is rife throughout lingerie campaigns. You constantly see women posed together in provocative situations, usually looking glassy-eyed or in the middle of a kitsch spanking-fest presumably meant to remind the viewer of Bettie Page. There is rarely a man in sight, but that's the whole point. The male viewer can easily imagine himself there. 


There's shit like this, which makes my skin crawl so much that I can't watch it more than once.



Not only is the whole concept of this campaign borderline paedophilic (although the women are fully grown, the disturbing situation they are grinning through is, I assume, meant to encourage female viewers to reminisce on their childhood sleepovers), but it is also pure male-fantasy. 

(also as an aside, which Alix Fox pointed out to me: "FRILLY'S" IS NOT CORRECT)

I dread to think what some of the men who create these adverts would do if they met a real life lesbian. Probably attempt to convert them with their manly charms, because there's no such thing as a woman that can resist manly charms.


What about another example? Here's an Agent Provocateur ad that also involves a woman preparing for what I can only assume is a date while only wearing her underwear. She then SUDDENLY decides to go outside, looking for her cat, in her underwear. Can you see where this is going?



*gurn gurn gurn*


 Watch the money roll in. 



 2. "Real Women" wear lingerie.

"Real Women", possibly my most hated phrase. Are you marketing lingerie or just the encouragement to bully other women? Those skinny girls that mocked you during high school, well men like meat, dogs like bones (or whatever that fucking pathetic phrase is, so pathetic that I would rather stab myself in the face than google it to find the correct saying). 


 The phrase "real women" should be banned from use. The joining of those two words should be illegal. Why? It's a lazy attempt at brand loyalty.


"Real women", yes you, with the stretch marks. Are you sick of seeing perfectly polished models with tiny stomachs? Well we CATER for REAL WOMEN, not those skinny ones, those absolutely vile skinny ones. Anyone who doesn't buy our bra obviously ISN'T a real woman. Men WANT real women, and REAL WOMEN wear cute lingerie. THAT'S WHAT REAL MEN WANT, REAL WOMEN. 


Again, like The Lingerie Lesbian said, you can only be a woman if you wear nice underwear. And men only want real women. 


The sexualisation of women in media and adverising is nothing new, and of course, lingerie IS all about feeling sexy. But it's not about encouraging men to buy lingerie with the assumption that doing so will transform their girlfriends/wives into their sex-slaves. 


Ripper Street or "How the Daily Mail Fails at Feminism"



There seems to be a historical drama face-off going on between ITV and BBC.

I know everyone flails about Downton Abbey, and I do admit when I tried to watch it I did have 4 large dogs trying to jump on me at the same time (don't ask), but it didn't entice me to watch more than one episode. To me it has that certain.... nicely nicely British historical drama, can't offend the censors, fun for all the family.... feel to it. I'm probably wrong, and I am most definitely not one of those people that watches one episode and gives up (god forbid the kind of twat that watches an episode IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEASON, then moans about how they don't understand what's going on), so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and try to watch it again soon.

But unfortunately, I do find it difficult to believe that ITV can produce anything of worth. Chalk that down to the X Factor/Britain's No Talent generation.

So when I see that ITV is filling it's Sunday slot (previously belonging to Downton) with a new show, Mr Selfridge, I am hardly scrambling for the remote. In fact, I had little knowledge (due to never watching ITV) of it, and turned to BBC One instead, where I happened upon Ripper Street in all it's gory glory.


Oh, and the "bad guy" in the 2nd episode is Joe Gilgun, who I first saw in This Is England. To say he plays an immensely brilliant villain is an understatement.

After gulping down Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad in 2012, it's fairly safe to say that British TV is just nowhere near the level of it's American counterparts. Mainly due to budget. However, I'd say that Ripper Street is pretty damn close in terms of writing and attention to detail (although there are rarely any GRAND sets, the detail put into the small snippets you see is brilliant). This is possibly because it was created as a collaboration between BBC and BBC America.

Unfortunately, the theme of the show isn't anything new, and is very similar stylistically to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films. Very gritty, a specific colour palette in terms of costumes, and a very similar soundtrack (that AMAZING broken Romanian-esque sound created by Hans Zimmer, who apparently "did hideous things to a piano" alongside banjos, violins and other unconventional instruments). It's the very tried and tested Victorian-era gritty-bits-of-East-London style, but if you like that kind of thing, it ticks all the boxes, and it does do it well.


However, what Ripper Street DOES do is deal with the time period shortly after Jack the Ripper went about his business, and the paranoia left behind, causing conflict with the police force. I won't go into the details of the characters (if you care enough to read this far, just watch it), but will say it's a "monster of the week" show, with some loose relationship plot development moving throughout. We actually accidentally watched half of the second episode without seeing the first, and while we didn't know the detail of each character, you can get the gist, which goes to show the storytelling is well-written.

What I do want to discuss is the role of women in Ripper Street. The Daily Mail, that seems to consistently objectify and degrade women on a regular fucking basis, claim that Ripper Street is an "Anti-Women Orgy of Gore"


The Daily Fail article complains about the "souring atmosphere and the way that violence is rather too lasciviously portrayed against a backdrop of fetishised period-perfect sets" and the "torture and murder of women, enthusiastically depicted... nothing to do with the Ripper, mind you." She goes on to complain that the first episode featured a "convoluted plotline about the first snuff movies ever made", and that "we see a great deal more of this act than is strictly necessary".

Mustn't it be lovely, to live in a world of puppy dogs and kittens, where the idea of sitting down on a Sunday night to watch a little bit of gory drama is viewed in the same titillating light as 50 Shits of Grey. Such a terrible shame when your little drool-fest is interrupted by the TYPE OF SHOCKING VIOLENCE THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO REAL WOMEN EVERY DAY. "It would be laughable if it wasn’t quite so nasty", apart from it's not, is it, because it has actually struck a nerve, that you aren't capable of dealing with in an intelligent manner.

She even goes on to complain about how the men are kitted out in exquisite tweed and plaid suits while the "women are generally naked - or just shuffle about in rags".


Nice rags.....?

The Daily Fail article may have had a point, if the series continued with female murders (it started out with one to highlight how all female murders were linked to Jack the Ripper shortly after his time), however the article fails to highlight that point. The second episode features a male victim and the introduction of a strong, mothering character (albeit just for one episode) - and the only "tart" actually ends up almost (well she beats the crap out of a few extras) kicking some arse in a full gown, corset and tiny wobbly hat.

Fuck your false feminism, Jan Moir. Calling out misogyny just because something is depicted in a violent way does not mean that Ripper Street's creators are anti-women.

Have you seen Ripper Street - if so, how did it make you feel? Also, would you suggest I give Mr Selfridge a go?