Teenage girls and their deteriorating self-image

Rachel Chistyakov

Voices Editor

As I strolled through the Topanga Mall with my friends, I passed by many popular clothing stores showcasing flashy new styles for teenagers to try on. Whenever a store tries to publicize its latest trend or product, it slaps its merchandise in the store window for every shopper to gaze at. So when I passed by Victoria’s Secret, I was extremely puzzled by its new product.

Victoria’s Secret is advertising their new Miraculous Bra that “instantly adds two cup sizes” by displaying huge posters in their store windows. These displays feature the famous Victoria’s Secret models in extreme push up bras, making their breasts look larger than their faces. I cannot understand what message Victoria’s Secret is trying to send to its shoppers, what the need for this new fashion is, and why it is its new, headlining product. Considering that this store is surrounded by other stores populated by teenagers, I assume that Victoria’s Secret is trying to appeal to young women – and its line of college apparel only reinforces this belief. So what is Victoria’s Secret trying to tell every 16-22 year old girl who walks by its store? Do teenage girls need to “instantly add two cup sizes?” Who does need that?

I believe that Victoria’s Secret is addressing the problem of many girls’ negative self-image, but it is doing so in a horrible way. Instead of shoving its scantily clad models in every shopper’s face, Victoria’s Secret should be trying to tell girls that everyone is beautiful, that it’s perfectly fine to not be a size 00, and that it’s possible to be big and beautiful. Right now, Victoria’s Secret is simply reinforcing the idea that girls should be skinny with big boobs and a big butt— why else would it be releasing a bra that adds on two cup sizes?

“We cater to young customers,” Victoria’s Secret CEO, Sharen Turney, said, “and they would come into the store and start texting their friends, ‘Oh my God, you have to come in here and try this bra on.'”

What is happening to the average teenage girl, and how will it affect her when she grows up? How will this affect our children; will the members of the next generation of girls view themselves in the same way? Will this become even worse? Who even started the “trend” of being skeletal? Who says it has to be normal?

I sincerely wish that girls could take a step back and develop the mindset that women had in the 50’s, when Marilyn Monroe was one of the most beautiful role models for teenage girls, and she was not stick thin. Today, she would be considered a plus-size model. But her body was real— as Ms. Stephanie Monteleone, health teacher, explained, the supermodels we see today do not represent realistic body figures. If a girl has naturally small hips, then she will have a small body. Rarely can a girl naturally have large thighs, big breasts, and a small body unless she goes under the knife. Bodies are proportional; if a girl has big boobs, her body must comply with it. Therefore, the Victoria’s Secret models we see plastered on every magazine are not normal, which means that they do not represent the average woman. Arguably, there are many girls who do have the bodies of Victoria’s Secret models, but this is not the norm; most women don’t look anything close to that. If the vast majority of women cannot and will not ever look like these models, why do we praise them and hope to be like them? Why do girls feel the pull to go under the knife in order to look like them? Why is no one trying to change this?

The more important question is how this 21st century mindset is going to affect the next generation of girls. If a woman who suffered or still suffers with problems regarding her body eventually gets married and has a daughter of her own, how will her past affect her daughter’s future? Issues like this have already become evident, the most recent case being Abercrombie’s push-up bikini for girls under 10. The bikini, which has been criticized for sending the wrong message to young girls, has been controversial because, as with most products, not everyone disapproves of it— the bikinis have been selling out in certain sizes in Abercrombie stores.

Jean Kilbourne’s series, Killing Us Softly, addresses these issues of young women and their self image.


Whether the problem concerns teenage girls, mothers, or future girls that are in jeopardy, there still needs to be a solution. The solution to this problem isn’t group therapy for girls who are self-conscious about their bodies and the solution isn’t putting them on diets. The solution is to send the message to women, men, and children everywhere, that no one needs to be a size 0 or have perfectly sculpted abs— in fact, the celebrities and models we see all over magazines don’t represent reality. Perhaps Lady Gaga, the new queen of pop, has decided to personally begin this body revolution with her new hit single, Born This Way. But really, the influence of Lady Gaga’s song goes all the way back to the Torah in the story of creation, where after creating the first human being, God looks over his creation and states that it was good. As Ramban later commented, this means that no part of a human being is flawed— everything about us is perfect. The media’s decision to portray the exact opposite is cruel and immoral, and I hope that, someday in the near future, magazine editors and ad companies will realize how their campaigns are destroying American society.