Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Victoria's Dirty Secret?

Ok, I have big questions about this website, which is targeting Victoria's Secret for protests since they send out a lot of catalogs.

My questions:

  • Are we sure they send out that many? As I recall, one has to pay for the Victoria's Secret catalog (which I presume minimizes ordering by teenage boys.) I have trouble imagining a million people a day paying for a catalog and if they are paying for it, they likely aren't throwing it away. But I could be wrong. (OK, just checked victoriassecret.com. At least one's first catalog is free. But at least they used to charge...)

  • Why Victoria's Secret? Sometimes the biggest, most famous business is easiest to target, but that doesn't make them the right people to target. If we're going after catalogs, why not Fingerhut, which sends out a ton of catalogs and exploits the poor to boot?

  • Must we effectively reduce the amount of sexiness in the world? Can't we protest a less sexy catalog? Sears, anyone?

Or maybe I've just been reading too much Spurlock watch. I heart Spurlock watch.

*CC chakes her head* Gotta stop hanging out with the kids from Cato.


Ps. While I'm feeling all contrarian and pissy, did anybody else read John Tierney this morning, about the poor bastard with multiple sclerosis that they put away for fake painkiller perscriptions? I assume that Tierney isn't telling full story. A jury putting away a guy with advanced MS who just wanted some painkillers doesn't ring true. But again, I could be wrong.

While legalized drugs has never been a hill I especially wanted to die on, this situation certainly sucks and we should probably be giving people the benefit of the doubt.


kim said...

We get lots and lots of Victoria's Secret catalogs, since Joyce orders from them (their jeans fit her really well.) we don't have to pay for them, though VS isn't cheap.
There do seem to be excessive catalogs.
Beyond that, I have no opinion. Nero fiddles while Rome burns....

Matthew said...

Having already revealed my support hose fethish, I suppose there is little harm in admitting the even more shocking truth that I have doubts that this is the most effective way for Unitarian Universalists to "demonstrate their religious concern for social justice and the environment." Then again, considering the overwhelming support for this issue, maybe I should reconsider. Can "over 30 people" be wrong?

I am very green and I despise junk mail. I have also been a VS customer. (No, not more support hose, just a tasteful gift. Really.) I started getting junk mail and I sent an e-mail message asking for it to cease. It did. End of story. So what is the big deal? Are we protesting the right of companies to buy paper so that customers may voluntarily receive advertisments?

Rock on, CC.

Anonymous said...

These are great questions, I would also direct them right to the people running the campaign (one of them is a UU - and there are tons of UU's who have been involved with the campaign!)

Yes, VS definitely sends out that many catalogues. They're free, and once you buy any ONE thing from their website or order one catalog, you're more or less bombarded. I used to get one or two dozen a year.

I know groups are very strategic about which corporations they target - choosing a well-known company is important because if they change their policies (i.e. to be more environmentally or socially just), it's a big deal. much of the rest of the industry will follow. From what I know the Paper Campaign (which is running this VDS campaign) did research on the entire catalog industry, before choosing to focus on VS. When they targetted Staples (to get them to up their recycled items, etc.) it worked very well, and OfficeMax soon followed.

The sexiness is exactly the reason the campaign is also so fun and awesome - this campaign isn't about any LESS sexy lingerie, models, or fun. No one is saying VS shouldn't exist, or should use less catalogs. They are just encouraging them to use recycled paper (right now they get their paper from some of the last remaining endangered forests). But about the fun part - student groups, UU congregations and youth groups, and all sorts of folks involved with this campaign can have a blast doing it. People have worn lingerie themselves, incorporated street theater or spoken word, or used more "traditional" tactics like contacting the company or removing themselves from the mailing list to reduce the amount of wasted paper.

We can (and should!) still have VS and everything that goes along with it - but there are more sustainable, environmentally-friendly and just ways of doing it. :)

Matthew said...

"...student groups, UU congregations and youth groups, and all sorts of folks involved with this campaign can have a blast doing it."

This is a good point and I think it gets to the heart of something that bothers me about demonstrations like the one at this year's GA: protest as entertainment. I do think that civil disobediance and protest are valid and sometimes necessary expressions of free speech. It is just that requiring them to also be great fun kind of cheapens the experience and lessons the political impact. This is all the more ridiculous when we compare protests as entertainment with sitting at lunch counters and marching on Selma.

I had a kind of epiphany during the WTO protests in Seattle. "What people in developing economies really need," I thought, "Is probably not another giant puppet."

TheCSO said...

I have a hard time supporting blackmail tactics, and that's bsically what this group does. Their strategy with Staples, as I understood it, was basically to whine and protest and give Staples bad publicity until they caved. And they met with Staples management, gave them specific demands, and made it less expensive for Staples to comply with their ideology-driven opinion than to combat the bad press. On an issue that most of their customers really didn't care about.

I even basically agree with their goals, but I don't like their tactics and have a hard time supporting them.

The last thing we need is more whining, and "we're going to throw a calculated temper tantrum until this big company does things our way" sends the wrong message about the effectiveness of protest. It's not some grand gesture in the spirit of, say, the civil rights movement. It's about whining enough that it's cheaper for the company to pay their protection money (in this case, buying more expensive paper) than suffer the negative publicity inflicted by a small fringe group.

It's media-savvy PR blackmail, and effective PR blackmail at that. Let's just stop pretending that there's some sort of nobility to protesting here, and call it what it is - a bullying tactic used to shove a specific non-mainstream opinion down everyone else's throat. Now, whether that's appropriate is a very different question, and I'm not sure what the correct answer is. It's the one we should be asking, though.