Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 29-Feb-08
Victoria's Secret changes from "too sexy" to "ultra-feminine"

Web Log - February, 2008

Victoria's Secret changes from "too sexy" to "ultra-feminine"

Yes, this story DOES have a generational angle.

One of the more demure pictures from the Victoria's Secret web site. It's a "Kate Fit bootcut pant," and it's "ultra-low rise for an ultra-sexy you."  A bargain at $69.50.
One of the more demure pictures from the Victoria's Secret web site. It's a "Kate Fit bootcut pant," and it's "ultra-low rise for an ultra-sexy you." A bargain at $69.50.

Sales have been plunging at Victoria's Secret stores, and CEO Sharen Turney said that a change is coming:

"We've so much gotten off our heritage ... too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine. ... I feel so strongly about us getting back to our heritage and really thinking in terms of ultra feminine and not just the word sexy and becoming much more relevant to our customer. ... We will also reinvent the sleepwear business and focus on product quality. Our assortment will return to an ultra feminine lingerie brand to meet her needs and expectation."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is just one more indication of the sharp change in gender attitudes and roles that the country is experiencing as it enters a generational Crisis era.

The 1990s was a generational Unraveling era, and during such eras, "anything goes." Individual rights are paramount, and any political speech or sexuality or lifestyle is considered acceptable. While open sexuality is considered radical and progressive during an Awakening era (like America in 1960-70s), it's considered the norm in an Unraveling era, and generates a backlash during a Crisis era.

Related Articles

Gender Issues
Feminist alert: Millionaires' mistresses and wives are biggest victims of financial crisis: Abusive, controlling husbands are forcing wives to do their own cooking and cleaning.... (5-Jul-2009)
A generational explanation of Iran's political crisis: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?... (23-Jun-2009)
Victoria's Secret changes from "too sexy" to "ultra-feminine": Yes, this story DOES have a generational angle.... (29-Feb-08)
ABC's Cokie Roberts conveys the frustration of feminists over Barack Obama: Obama himself is an empty vessel waiting to be filled.... (25-Feb-08)
Subprime mortgage executive kills wife and jumps off bridge to his death: There's a lot more to this story than the papers are telling.... (21-Jan-08)
Iran's President Ahmadinejad facing a growing "generation gap": Gas rationing and restrictions on women are infuriating the college-age generation.... (2-Jul-07)
Iranian police swoop down on women with loose headscarves: Sorry, I just can't stop laughing at this one.... (25-Apr-07)
Collapse of Duke rape case represents cultural change: False accusations against men are likely to occur less often now.... (22-Apr-07)
Activists accuse Fox's '24' of promoting torture.: In the end, it's just another way to bash our troops.... (18-Mar-07)
Boys, boys, boys! China is running out of girls.: A look inside a Chinese maternity ward... (1-Feb-07)
Feminism flourishes in Iran, as the international crisis on nuclear weapons intensifies: Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, named a hardline Islamist cabinet on Sunday,... (15-Aug-05)
"It's going to be the 1950s all over again": Young women in droves are staying home to take care of the kids,... (11-Oct-04)
Gender gap replaced by a marriage gap or mother gap: The new phrase replacing "soccer moms" is "security moms," worried about their family's safety from terrorism.... (28-Sep-04)
CBS fined $550,000 because Janet Jackson bared her breast on MTV show: Women love "manly men"; the gender gap is narrowing. The sex revolution is over.... (24-Sep-04)
Vatican criticizes the "lethal effects" of feminism: This is one more indication, following the backlash against Janet Jackson's bared breast at the Super Bowl, that the sexual revolution is over.... (1-Aug-04)
China is getting more girls: With a huge surplus of boys, ultrasound exams are illegal in China,... (15-Jul-04)
The race and gender wars are abating: The amount of public polarization along issues of race, gender and crime has plummeted in recent years,... (30-Jun-04)
The New Sexual Revolution: The pendulum is swinging back. (27-Feb-04)
Schwarzenegger's victory could spell trouble for Bush: It also signals the end of the societal culture / gender wars. (8-Oct-03)

I've described all this many times on this web site. In "Iran's President Ahmadinejad facing a growing 'generation gap,'" I described how Iran, which is currently in a generational Awakening era, is experiencing the same kind of gender conflict that America experienced in the 1960s.

In America in recent years, there have been many, many signs of women returning to stereotypical female gender roles, which some feminists are viewing with horror, saying "'It's going to be the 1950s all over again.'"

I remember being really startled, just after 9/11, when newspaper articles said that women were being attracted to "manly men" again, and when firemen and policemen were being praised as heroes for their willingness to run back into burning buildings to save people. When I was growing up in the 1950s, if you had asked a boy what he wanted to be when he grew up, it's quite likely that he would have said "fireman" or "policeman" -- and a girl would have anwered "a mother." Those sentiments disappeared pretty much completely in the 1960s, but suddenly were returning after 9/11.

The same story is occurring all the time. Whether it's CBS being fined $550,000 because Janet Jackson had bared her breast on MTV's SuperBowl halftime show on CBS, or educated women choosing to stay home with the kids, or Cokie Roberts complaining that Hillary Clinton has been pushed out of the way by a "cute young man [who] comes in and says a bunch of sweet nothings," the story is the same: men and women are returning to their stereotypical gender roles.

This isn't the first time this has happened. America's previous generational Unraveling era was the 1920s "flapper" era, when female sexuality was as open and accepted as in the 1990s. It began to change as America entered a generational Crisis era in the 1930s, when open sexuality began to be criticized and questioned.

A sign of that transition is Cole Porter's title song from the 1934 show Anything Goes! Some excerpts from the song's lyrics are as follows:

"Times have changed,
And we've often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.

If today,
Any shock they should try to stem,
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them!

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now God knows,
Anything goes!

Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose,
Anything goes!

The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos

So tho I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer when you propose
Anything goes!

When grandmama whose age is eighty
In night clubs is getting matey with gigolos,
Anything Goes!

When mothers pack and leave poor father
Because they decide they'd rather be tennis pros,
Anything Goes!

If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why nobody will oppose.

When every night the set that's smart is
Intruding in nudist parties in studios,
Anything goes!

If saying your prayers you like,
If green pears you like
If old chairs you like,
If back stairs you like,
If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose!

Just think of those shocks you've got
And those knocks you've got
And those blues you've got
From those news you've got
And those pains you've got
(If any brains you've got)
From those little radios.

So Missus R., with all her trimmin's,
Can broadcast a bed from Simmons
'Cause Franklin knows
Anything goes!"

The last verse is a reference to a "shocking" publicity campaign by Simmons Bedding Company featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, just before her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, became President.

And here's a video from a 2007 production of Anything Goes! with absolutely fantastically mind-blowing choreography:

The 1934 song "Anything Goes!" represents a transitional time in American attitudes towards sex. If, up to that point, good authors who "once knew better words now only use four-letter words" is true, then things had already changed dramatically by 1939 when Clark Gable's "I don't give a damn!" in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind caused a scandal.

America is in a similar transitional time now, and Victoria's Secret's own transition is a microcosm. The "in your face" sexuality of the store is hurting sales because a new generation of young women is rebelling against the sexual attitudes of their older sisters and mothers. While young women of the 1960s complained about having to wear their mothers' girdles, young women of today don't want to see their mothers' negligées, at least not in public. Instead of "very sexy," Victoria's Secret is now talking about being "ultra-feminine."

My expectation is that the Victoria's Secret transition is far from complete. My expectation is that young women will see even the "ultra-feminine" message as being unacceptable, unless it's accompanied by a great deal more modesty. I'm not saying that women are going back to sleeping in ankle-length breeches, but I am saying that a retrenchment in open sexuality is in progress, and will continue for many years. (29-Feb-08) Permanent Link
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