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On Lane Bryant, Victoria’s Secret — and ’Upholstered’ Women

Am I the only woman who hates those Victoria’s Secret “The Nakeds” commercials, which feature tanned, lithe young women with tiny bits of underwear covering their own tiny bits, as they writhe in apparent ecstasy?

I doubt it.

Now I’m joining the many American women who are angry that ABC and Fox have restricted this Lane Bryant lingerie commercial for their “Cacique” brand of lingerie.

The television networks’ purported reason? That the commercial is too revealing and “shows too much cleavage,” according to the plus-size retailer. On its Web site, Lane Bryant writes:

ABC refused to show the commercial during “Dancing with the Stars” without restricting our airtime to the final moments of the show. Fox demanded excessive re-edits and rebuffed it three times before relenting to air it during the final 10 minutes of “American Idol,” but only after we threatened to pull the ad buy.

Yes, these are the same networks that have scantily-clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block, and don’t forget Bart Simpson, who has shown us the moon more often than NASA, all during what they call “prime time.”

We knew the ads were sexy, but they are not salacious. Our new commercials represent the sensuality of the curvy woman who has more to show the world than the typical waif-like lingerie model. What we didn’t know was that the networks, which regularly run Victoria’s Secret and Playtex advertising on the very shows from which we’re restricted, would object to a different view of beauty. If Victoria’s Secret and Playtex can run ads at any time during the 9pm to 10pm hour, why is Lane Bryant restricted only to the final 10 minutes?

Does this smack of a double standard? Yep. It does to us, too.

To be sure, the Lane Bryant model in the commercial is chesty (with natural-looking, ample cleavage) but this commercial seems to be far less revealing than any of the many near-pornographic Victoria’s Secret commercials broadcast over the past few years.

The Lane Bryant commercial, compared to “The Nakeds” commercial, looks downright wholesome.

In an interview with New York’s WPIX news outside her Brooklyn home, Ashley Graham, the star of the commercial, said that the networks’ decision not to run the commercial in prime time is “a bit prejudiced. When there’s a bigger woman with a little bit extra they snip it out immediately.”

“It’s sad to me,” she said. “I feel sad for all the plus-size women in America…The majority of women in America are size 12, 14 and 16 and want to see themselves on television.”

In the new issue of The New York Times’ fashion magazine supplement “T Magazine,” there is an article about a trainer who helps professional models stay in physical condition so that light is visible between their closed thighs.

Writer Guy Trebay contrasts “pneumatic” models including Israel’s Bar Rafaeli “and a selection of other lushly upholstered Victoria’s Secret types” with the “stick figures” on the “starvelings” usually found in couture runway shows.

Putting aside the problem of a writer describing women in terms generally reserved for furniture, the article holds up Victoria’s Secret models as the ideal of well-rounded physical health. Ed Razek, chief marketing officer for Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret (and until 2002 owned Lane Bryant as well) is quoted saying, “we’ve always believed that our girls were the ultimate standard in beauty.”

It’s true that the Victoria’s Secret “ideal” may currently be the ultimate male fantasy of the female physique, but as the mother of two pre-teen daughters and as a woman who wears the Cacique brand, I am quite clear that it’s not one that mere mortals like ourselves can hold ourselves to if we want to walk in the world with confidence.

It’s too bad that Limited Brands no longer owns Lane Bryant; it would have been interesting to see whether the corporation might have refused to air its Victoria’s Secret commercials until Fox and ABC agreed to air the Cacique commercial in prime time as well.

But there remains at least one way we well-endowed women and our supportive sisters can let some of the air out of our “pneumatic” chests on this troublesome development. We can follow the advice of a commenter on the Lane Bryant site and go to the ABC Web site to tell executives there what we think of their reluctance to show viewers what a beautiful size-16 woman looks like in pretty lingerie.

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