This may come as a surprise to you, but I love to shop.
Shopping can be intimidating for those in our community. It’s impossible to predict what our experiences will be like. Will the cashier stare at me? Will the customers make whispered remarks to other shoppers? Will the sales clerk be helpful? Are those heels available in my size?
I support trans-friendly and trans-positive businesses and avoid those that are not. Many companies will champion those in the LGBTQIA community. For example, I shop at Target because of their policy towards our community. Of course, everyone who works for an organization will have their own opinions even if the corporate culture and core beliefs encourage diversity and inclusion. Just because their policy is to welcome us to the store and allows us to use the dressing room of our choice does not mean the cashier isn’t going to be rude to you.
I have always loved shopping at Victoria’s Secret. I have always been treated very well and always had positive, friendly experiences with the staff…regardless of what gender I presented as.
I was…disappointed, to say the least, when I saw recent comments by Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer and executive vice president of public relations, Ed Razek.
Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.
Rightly so, there was immediate backlash including comments by Heidi Zak, the CEO of ThirdLove, a new lingerie company:
“How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements?” she wrote. “You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. … Your show may be a ‘fantasy’ but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country.
“Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles?” she added. “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend.”
There are also calls to boycott the brand by models and modeling agencies, including transgender model Leyna Bloom.
Of course, an apology came quickly after:
I read apologies with a huge amount of skepticism. I wonder about the sincerity of such comments as it’s easy for a company to say they’re sorry when a backlash is going to hurt their profits. The damages has been done.
Normally I would simply stop shopping somewhere when the organization made comments like this, but as I said, I’ve always wonderful service at the stores themselves. An apology without a change in behavior is worthless. Was Victoria’s Secret going to do anything to win back the trust and the business of our community? Should I trust them? Was this an offhand comment by some insensitive corporate idiot?
I wasn’t sure. So, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and asked them.
I submitted a comment via their website on November 20th. I copied the message below:
Hello, my name is Hannah and I am a model, activist and blogger. I am also a transwoman. I’m sure you know where this is going. 🙂 When I started to present in public as a woman, one of the first places I visited was Victoria’s Secret. I waited years to buy your beautiful lingerie and clothes. Of course, I was nervous on my first visit, but on my first, and every visit I’ve made since, I have received nothing but excellent customer service. Whether it is a bra fitting or just friendly smiles at the register, I’ve always felt welcome at your stores.
My enthusiasm for your stores plummeted last week when I heard the disparaging comments of the transcommunity by your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek. It was the first time anyone in your organization referred to a girl like differently compared to cis-gender women.
Transphobia hurts. It hurts even more when it comes from someone who represents a brand that I love, a brand that screams femininity. A brand that, until last week, made me feel welcomed and beautiful.
I have not been to your stores since. I want to, but I will not support an organization that says such hurtful opinions on my community.
Yes, he apologized, but anyone can apologize when faced with criticism. The apology is there but so is Mr. Razek and his opinions…which are possibly a representation of the culture in you organization.
Like I said, I want to shop at your store. I have more of your clothing and lingerie than any other brand, but all I can think of when I see my closet are what Mr. Razek said.
Beyond the apology, what else are you doing to win back the trust of customers like me?
Thank you for listening,
I was curious to see what their response would be. The automatic reply I received stated they strive to reply to comments within 8 hours.
After a few days of silence, I sent the comment again.
Silence can speak volumes. Inaction is a form of action.
Their decision to not to respond to my concerns show that they really have no interest in keeping me as a customer. Any organization can tweet an apology, but it takes real work, fueled by a true commitment to a community, to earn that trust back.