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Is Victoria’s Secret Identity Politics? – The Wall Street Journal

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Is Victoria’s Secret Identity Politics? – The Wall Street Journal


Victoria’s Secret canceled its annual fashion show this year, a Christmastime staple of network television since 1995. The 2018 show had drawn only 3.3 million U.S. viewers on ABC, down from five million in 2017 and 12.4 at its 2001 peak. The cancellation added to Victoria’s Secret’s other woes: store closings, falling sales revenue, the termination of its famous catalog in 2016, and revelations that

Jeffrey Epstein

had been the financial adviser of

Leslie Wexner,

82-year-old founder and CEO of parent company

L Brands.

The retailer finds itself politically and culturally out of step.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

complained at the Guardian of the “pornified aesthetic” that the “male gaze” had foisted upon Victoria’s Secret’s customers. “It’s refreshing that comfort and inclusivity are now on the agenda,” she wrote. Big Think’s

Molly Hanson

credited the “body positivity” movement for the cancellation, which she called the “nail in the coffin to an archaic, androcentric definition of ‘sexy.’ ”

Conservative commentators expressed similar sentiments. The Washington Examiner’s

Madeline Fry

called the show a “sordid event” staged by a company whose “advertising has always been about fulfilling male fantasies.”

Models at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York, Nov. 10, 2015.


Photo:

Evan Agostini/Associated Press

The left also complained that Victoria’s Secret models lack “diversity.” True, Victoria’s Secret made the reputations of black supermodels

Naomi Campbell

and Tyra Banks. But “none of the models have been plus size or gender nonconforming,” Buzzfeed’s Scaachi Koul grumbled. Asked why in November 2018, Ed Razek, L Brands’ marketing director, told Vogue: “Because the show is a fantasy.” Mr. Razek has left the company, and in August Victoria’s Secret hired

Valentina Sampaio

as its first transgender model.

It is quite a change since 1977, when

Roy Raymond

founded Victoria’s Secret as a bordello-décor haven for men to buy sexy underwear for their wives and girlfriends. Raymond’s birthday- and holiday-focused business plan couldn’t sustain sales. When Mr. Wexner bought the chain in 1982, his first move was to reconfigure the stores to appeal to women who couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars for a La Perla bra but would snap up midpriced lace and satin.

Mr. Wexner marketed his wares by employing gorgeous models like Ms. Banks,

Heidi Klum,

Gisele Bündchen

and

Candice Swanepoel.

That was Mr. Razek’s “fantasy”: Customers knew they didn’t have supermodel bodies, but the idea was that some of the glamour would rub off on them. And of course it was an “androcentric” conception of sexiness. The vast majority of women are heterosexual.

Beauty, however, is not democratic. And in the age of militant identity politics, identity has replaced beauty as a marketing strategy. Increasing numbers of women, especially the loudest in the media and social media, aren’t interested in partaking vicariously of the supermodel glamour of

Kendall Jenner

or

Gigi Hadid.

They demand instead to be told that they themselves are just as lovely as Ms. Jenner and Ms. Hadid—and to see versions of themselves on the runway.

One form of fantasy has been traded in for another. Plus-size and other figure-flawed ladies are now ubiquitous in womenswear advertising, especially among Victoria’s Secret’s upstart competitors: Aerie, Third Love, and singer Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty line. An X Fenty fashion show that streamed on

Amazon

Prime in September was heavy on performers of uncertain sex and hefty bra-and-panty models showing off their cellulite dimples.

Beauty has been declining in Western culture for more than a century, starting with the fine arts. Now it’s vanishing even from advertising. But the market is democratic, and we’ll see if social justice can sell underwear.

Ms. Allen is author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus.”

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER

“We’ll be back, soon.”

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS

“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER VIA TWITTER

“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”

TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY VIA TWITTER

“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”

FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN

“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER

“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”

CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA

“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”

MANSOUR ABBAS, ARAB MEMBER OF NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”

DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”

EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA, VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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