Commentary: The PINK Bus is demeaning marketing on campus

Shoppers queue up in front of Victoria's Secret at the Dartmouth Mall on Black Friday, in Dartmouth, Mass., Nov. 25, 2016. Stores open their doors Friday for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlier. (Peter Pereira/Standard Time/SCMGs via AP)

Victoria’s Secret is one of many corporations/businesses that promotes their products on college campuses. With every token or piece of free food handed out is the insistent encouragement to Snap, post, or Instagram their products to garner “organic” brand interest.

Like many women on the University of Utah campus on Sept. 14, I dutifully attended my classes. I also visited the Olpin Union for an internship hosting event. I observed that among the students networking, fewer than perhaps 10 or 15 percent were women. Which is why it was so disappointing that it seemed that every woman on campus was at the PINK Bus parked next to the campus store the same day, snapping and posting as per instruction.

Why did Victoria’s Secret think it was appropriate to market school-themed panties to women on a university campus, a place women have been historically excluded? In many ways, this type of sex-targeted marketing on campus is why the view that women are only going to college to partake in the “world’s biggest marriage mart” is so enduring. It has to do with how the women are marketed towards.

Prior to the PINK Bus event, signs were posted everywhere for promotion. Near the Marriott Library, the Union building, the campus store, all places where there were likely to be more women as well as men. The only sign I’d seen promoting the internship event was inside the Warnock Engineering building, a space already devoted to fields dominated by men. Women of a wide range of fields could have gone to the internship event, but only people who had been the subject of promotion actually did.

Bottom-line is that Victoria’s Secret’s responsibility is to make money. The university’s responsibility is towards inclusion and to educate their students.

To blame Victoria’s Secret would be a mistake. Their brand didn’t create the sexism from which they profit. The responsibility falls on the university to ethically regulate marketing on their property, especially their own event marketing. In this way, the University of Utah failed their female students this past Friday.

I went to school for an education, not to buy panties.

Frances Geerlings

Frances Geerlings, Bountiful, is studying computer science at the University of Utah.