We were hopeful, after reading that Allana Maiden (who created the petition) and her mother were invited to meet with Victoria’s Secret executives. Allana created the petition because she wanted her mother to feel beautiful again after undergoing a radical mastectomy. Allana’s mom, Debbie Barrett, wears a prosthetic breast because at the time of her operation, reconstruction wasn’t covered by insurance. Since she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive an hour and a half to go to a store that sells bras that fit prosthetic breasts.
Both Allana and her mother met with Victoria’s Secret executives twice, once when they went to New York to deliver the signatures they had collected (over 120,000 to date) and again when they were flown to company headquarters in Columbus, OH, for a meeting. After that meeting, Allana was hopeful that this lingerie giant would actually begin to work towards making bras that would fit people like her mom, Debbie, and other brave survivors. But Allana tells ABCNews.com that she recently received a call from a Victoria’s Secret spokesperson saying that the company would be be manufacturing bras for mastectomy survivors:
“I was disappointed, obviously. I understand her decision, that there is a science that goes [with these] bras, and it’s more complicated than a regular bra would be. But I felt that if anyone could do it, they could. They have everything in place. My mom and I have always said how much we appreciate Victoria’s Secret research efforts. But cancer research doesn’t help survivors feel beautiful after the battle is over — mastectomy bras do. This is a company that prides itself in innovation that helps women feel beautiful. I don’t think cancer survivors like my mom should be the exception to the rule.”
Tammy Roberts Myers, speaking for Victoria’s Secret, said:
“Through our research, we have learned that fitting and selling mastectomy bras … in the right way … a way that is beneficial to women is complicated and truly a science. As a result, we believe that the best way for us to make an impact for our customers is to continue funding cancer research.”
This decision comes after perhaps the most high-profile mastectomy ever, that of Angelina Jolie. Of Jolie, Allana said:
“She put the news out there that you can still be attractive after having breast cancer and mastectomy. But a beautiful bra would have been a great thing to have, and now these bras are very limited.”
I’m sure Angelina Jolie won’t have any trouble finding bras to fit her new form, especially since she’s privileged enough to have a full reconstructive surgery, as well as the means to buy whatever bra she wants and have to delivered directly to her door. But women like Debbie Barrett can’t.
In a way, I understand Victoria’s Secret’s decision. It’s likely not a very good money-making venture for them to design and manufacture bras for small segment of the population. But with the amount of money and clout they have, you’d think they’d be able to make at least a couple thousand bras a year, sell them on their website, or even gift them directly to women. They certainly have the funds and honestly, the amount of goodwill that would generate in the eyes of the public is pretty much priceless.
In terms of the company focusing on giving funds to breast cancer research, that’s certainly nice, isn’t it? But they should be doing that anyway. Besides, breast cancer is already basically the most funded cancer (at least it was back in 2008)—What Allana was hoping for with her petition wasn’t more money to eradicate this disease (although it almost goes without saying that that is a worthy goal). Allana wanted a huge company to essentially tell her mother and other women like her that their feelings and self-image are worthy, meaningful, and important. Victoria’s Secret almost did it, but ultimately, the message the company has decided to send is that their bottom line is more important than real, living, breathing, American women.
Photo: Flickr user Lucero Designs