[Ancient Faith Radio; July 26, 2007]
This shopping mall, Arundel Mills Mall, is one (I think) of a national chain of malls, the Mills malls. All of them are made up of a lot of discount stores. We’ve got a discount Saks 5th Avenue, a discount Neiman Marcus; there’s always an Outdoor World, I can see that over there. There’s a Bed Bath & Beyond, a, what’s it called? Birmingham Coat Factory? That doesn’t sound right. Burlington! Burlington Coat Factory. So it’s a big mall; it’s built in a circular shape so as you walk around it, I think it’s a whole mile if you walk all the way around the circuit. And it’s a great place for people to come with kids because you can walk, it’s air conditioned, it’s warm in the winter. And as you go along, there are different, kind of, themes, as you go from section to section. Right now, you might be able to hear this electronic sound of a cricket overhead. And there goes a loon or something. This section here is supposed to be like, you’re out in a marsh and there are giant dragonflies and butterflies hanging overhead and a bench – a sort of circular thing to sit on – that’s a great big water lily.
The thing that’s really distressing to me, though, is about a month ago a new store moved in, right into this section, into this sort of marshland section that has things for children to play on, and it’s Victoria’s Secret. There hadn’t been a store like this before. That was one of the reasons it was a nice place to go with kids. There were things to do, places to play. It was a nice, contained environment for people with children. And now, as I stand here, with my back to the Starbucks, what I’m seeing is women in very small amounts of lingerie. One’s wearing a thong, and she’s turned around with her back to us, and there’s a sign that says, ‘Our sexiest sale yet!’ And the store is black and the letters are hot pink, so it really jumps out at you. And within all these black surrounds and frames, it’s nothing but almost naked mannequins.
They sell very small quantities of clothing for a whole lot of money, I guess.
I just would hate to be a mother of a young child and have to walk past here. It’s so intrusive. And it’s so something that children shouldn’t be exposed to; they shouldn’t have to be trying to factor in what all this means, at a young age. And essentially it means, either this part of the mall is just off-limits, that you just don’t come here, or somehow you change the circle so that you turn back whenever you get close to this part, this part that seems especially designed for children, or else you just accept it. You accept that whatever the economy wants to do, it has the right to impose itself on minds, to engrave these images in our minds, and in the minds of our children, and to perplex us and to distort what sexuality really means.
Sexuality has been removed from a context of trust and been reframed almost as battle. As if the whole idea is that if you dress in the right way, you’ll devastate somebody else. You’ll conquer them by forcing them to be attracted to you. My daughter Megan likes to say, ‘It’s not that big a triumph to have a guy respond to you sexually. It’s not that hard to do. You don’t really deserve a trophy for this.’ But a store like Victoria’s Secret acts as if it’s this difficult goal, and you compete against other women to see if you can possibly achieve getting a man aroused when he looks at you.
It’s just sad. And something that is so deeply a part of every human’s life, their sexuality, that what children are learning as they walk through here is essentially untrue; it presents sexuality as sort of combative and as a goal or a game in itself, outside of a context of trust and of vulnerability. Vulnerability being really the most intrinsic, unremovable factor in sex.
There’s some things I like about this mall, some things I don’t. I’m not crazy about the trademarked word shoppertainment – “Shoppertainment,” get a load of that. And I don’t like that the sign outside promises kids that shopping is great exercise. No, it’s not great exercise. But there are things that you can kind of steer your kids around. Something like this store, which is so visually overwhelming—it’s just a shame.