Simons’ lingerie line trivializes Canadian women’s success

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Naming lingerie after an accomplished woman without her permission diminishes her success instead of celebrating it.

However, that’s exactly how Quebec-based retailer La Maison Simons has treated Canadian female trailblazers. From suffragette Nellie McClung to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the company has attempted to honour women with its latest line of bras.

Touting “strength and femininity,” the retailer promoted items like the “Beverley bralette” and the “Gabrielle plunge bra.” The items were advertised with a single line about the woman’s accomplishments, yet failed to acknowledge their last names or provide more context.

It’s concerning the only way a successful business thought to pay tribute to Canadian women was by appropriating their images for financial gain.

After McLachlin denounced the product carrying her name without her permission, CEO of the clothing company, Peter Simons, promised to discontinue and destroy the offending products.

His decision to destroy wearable clothing misses the point altogether.

The issue with Simons’ line isn’t that it’s lingerie—the issue is that this company is capitalizing off the success and hard work of resilient women.

McLachlin requested Mr. Simons apologize by donating to Cornerstone Housing for Women, an emergency shelter organization. If he truly wished to honour the women his company featured, he could’ve proactively donated the lingerie’s proceeds to women’s organizations. The bras Simons sold could also be donated to a worthy cause rather than destroyed.

Simons’ intention wasn’t bad—they wanted to honour “inspiring women that have changed the history of our country." But the exploitation of women’s success for monetary advantage trivializes their accomplishments.

The company’s attempted tribute is no better or worse than a misguided marketing venture. That said, Mr. Simons should’ve known better.

We can’t rely on retail marketing to share the accomplishments of Canadian women. It’s up to schools and families to amplify the success of these trailblazers outside the confines of a store’s change room.  

While the retailer’s intent wasn’t bad, it was misguided and belittling. Associating a woman’s success with a sexualized item of clothing limits her mainstream credibility. It asks consumers to focus on the physicality of professional and intellectual women.

To do all of this without any permission from the featured women is disquieting and inappropriate.

Intention aside, the impact of their actions is the same. The strides a woman has made to support her gender’s success doesn’t translate into marketing a bra’s physical support.

You should think of Nellie McClung when you visit the Senate—not when you walk through a lingerie aisle.

Journal Editorial Board

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