Large corporate creatures are especially touchy about their brand identification. This makes these companies particularly susceptible to campaigns which are critical of their policies and politics and tweak their marketing messages to demonstrate the problem.
Perhaps Victoria’s Secret even started the fight. When the radical feminist Baltimore group called FORCE did an art installation in 2010 – they displayed a women’s underwear 3 pack where one set said “Yes” another pair of panties and “No” and the final set said “Maybe”. Hannah Brancato said of this installation “we thought was a cute way of wearing what you were in the mood for.” A month later Victoria’s Secret came out with a line of panties which had “Yes, no, maybe” all on a single pair of panties – taking the clear message of the feminists and making it confusing and ambiguous.
This is not how VS usually works however. Their underwear messages and endless “come hither” ad campaigns usually carry unambiguous messages contributing to the commodification of young women’s sexuality. But the nimble feminists from FORCE we not to be outdone by this multinational. They decided to run their own mock VS ads with pro-consent messages on underwear and put them up all over the internet.
They worked with designers, photographers, models and stylists to make ads which looked realistic enough to be mistaken for Victoria’s Secrets own. They also had about 100 volunteers who in a coordinated fashion put up the ads on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
Predictably, VS lost it. Threatening internet service providers (but interestingly not the feminists who designed and posted the mock ads) with lawsuits and more if they did not pull these damaging images down. The website pinklovesconstent.com was taken down briefly, but free speech and the fact that these underwear were not actually for sale saved the day. It is back up and you can go and read more and promote it on the social media of your choice.
But it gets better.
Sometimes reverse shoplifting is the best way to stop a crime. Enter Operation Panty Drop. Activists have started distributing these pro-consent underwear in Victoria’s Secret stores into dozens of VS stores North America and Europe.
This is a fight VS should love to lose. They will sell more underwear if they help give women choice and are seen as empowering women, rather than just encouraging them to be constantly available.