Thursday, February 9, 2012

Victoria's Secret Angel Saving Her Body For Her Husband

'Victoria Secret' photo (c) 2011, jmussuto - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Victoria Secret model, Kylie Bisutt has decided to walk away from one of the most coveted positions for a model.  Kylie became an angel at the age of 19, just after getting married. She has since decided that her religious convictions will no longer allow her to model for the famous lingerie brand.
“Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise,” she told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modeling lingerie, and lingerie isn’t clothing, I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it because of my faith…

“My body should only be for my husband and it’s just a sacred thing,” she said. “I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.

“It was pretty crazy because I finally achieved my biggest dream, the dream that I always wanted, but when I finally got it, it wasn’t all that I thought it would be. Especially being married I just wanted to keep my marriage sacred because divorce rates now in America are pretty high, and I just want to do everything I can to keep my marriage special.”

“It is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don’t want to do,” she said. “I’ve fallen into many things that I wouldn’t have wanted to do, it’s a very tempting industry.”
I am a big supporter of a woman's agency in terms of her physical body, but I am not sure where I sit with this one.  Christianity is an extremely patriarchal religion.  Womanist and Feminist theologians have had to work extremely hard to find a liberationist theology, in which 'woman' can be empowered, and yet their work is nowhere near a mainstream level.  Week after week, in church after church, sexism is preached as the word of God. Preachers love to quote the Pauline gospel as justification for their sexism.  Thus sayeth the apostle Paul, should be a clue that it's time to leave that church. My click moment in terms of women's activism happened in a church, and to this day, I remember the slut shaming the minister engaged in, in his anti-abortion rant.  This man damn near cost me my faith.


Bisutt made it clear that being a Victoria Secret angel was her dream, and that is why I am having trouble with her decision. A man that loves you, should have no problem supporting your hopes and dreams, no matter what your career choices are, and the very idea that you are dishonoring him, or your marriage by following your career path is problematic to me. They were obviously a couple before she became a Victoria Secret's model, and this means he had to be aware of what her choices were.

There is a lot of pressure for women to display their bodies in Western cultures, if your body fits within a very specific framework.  This is an essential point, because fat women are expressly pressured to disappear from view, and are thought of as repulsive. Muslim women in particular are thought of as repressed, though there can be no denying that for many, dressing modestly is a choice.  Forcing near nudity, or the display of the body, is just as restrictive as being forced to cover up, and this is something that is often ignored in conversations about women, clothing and their bodies in the Western world.

I suppose the issue for me comes down to the fact that her language indicates conformity for her husband, rather than conformity for herself. For agency to truly exist, a decision in this situation should begin and end with one's self. She speaks almost as though her body is a separate entity, rather than an essential part of her person.  Bisutt claimed very specifically that her body should be for her husband's pleasure, and that makes me ask what about her pleasure? How can one claim true agency when the position of the body is only seen through a very male lens? Men have long viewed female bodies as possessions, and her position in this matter reduces her body to little more than a toy for sexual gratification.

Obviously, Bisutt's marriage is extremely important to her, but the implication that the divorce rate is as high as it is, because people have forgone the sacred is ridiculous.  The reason the divorce rate is as high as it is, in part is because women no longer are forced into intolerable situations.  Now that most women work outside of the home, this gives them the option to leave marriages in which they are not happy, or abuse exists.  It does not mean that a loving long term relationship is any less important to many than it was years ago.  It means that love begins with self. Staying with someone for fifty years, who makes you absolutely miserable, is not a positive, and we all deserve more out of life than that.

I want to support Bisutt's decision, because I know damn well that women are taught from a very early age that to be read as female, they must at least appear to be sexually available to men at all times.  Sexy clothing is being produced for girls at a younger and younger age. One cannot ignore however, the pressure involved in Christianity as an institution to exert control over women's bodies. Bisutt's decision is not free of influence.  I think I would be more comfortable if she said that she didn't want her body to be used for masturbation material by men, then giving up her dream job to save her body for her husband. I support Bisutt's decision, but I hardly see her as a role model, because her husband features to large within her decision making process.  Even as we support women's agency, it is still important to question the motivations behind said decisions.  All that Bisutt is doing, is conforming to an age old standard, set by men, and therefore; she is hardly revolutionary, though I am quite sure that the conservatives will paint her that way.

What are your thoughts on this?