I should have seen this one coming. My first red flag went up last November when Justin Beiber, the teen icon that’s worshiped by nearly every American girl under the age of 14, tweeted that he was getting ready to sing at the highly provocative Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Within minutes, Beiber was on stage performing alongside scantily-dressed Victoria Secret Angels, while millions of young girls – 80 % of whom struggle with body image – eagerly watched at home. The not-so-subliminal marketing message was sent: I like Justin Beiber, Justin Beiber likes Victoria’s Secret, and therefore I should buy Victoria’s Secret.
However it would be years before these young Beiber fanatics, with their tiny pre-puberty frames, could indulge in Victoria’s Secret sexy lingerie…at least that’s what America believed…until now. As of this spring, the risqué brand will launch an undergarment line aimed specifically at pre-teens and young teen age girls. And lest you think that Victoria’s Secret has toned down their recognizably racy style to appeal to this younger demographic, think again.
The new brand called, “Bright Young Things,” includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front.
Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer of Limited Brands, of which Victoria’s Secret is a subsidiary, announced the company’s new marketing demographic at a recent conference, claiming about younger girls:
“They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic.”
So based on Burgdoerfer’s logic, would it also be “magical” to make alcohol available to our preteens so that they can be “cool like the girl in college?” What about condoms, co-ed showers, and marijuana? While it’s true our young girls do observe older teens for social cues and trends, does that obligate us to gratify their curiosity with content that’s mature beyond their years?
While Burgdoerfer may try to sell the notion that Victoria’s Secret is only responding to market demands for middle school lingerie, it was just a few years ago, that Victoria’s Secret claimed they would never try to appeal to a pre-adolescent market. “We don’t market to that age group,” said Anthony Hebron, a Victoria’s Secret spokesman. David A Morrision, who at the time was President of Twentysomething, a company focused on marketing to young people, and had studied the Victoria’s Secret product line reassured concerned parents, “If Victoria’s Secret is blatantly catering to 7th and 8th graders, that might be considered exploitative.”
But that was then and this is now. With young teens representing about $335 billion worth of spending power, according to Retail Analyst Hitha Prabhakar, there is money to be made, loyalty to be won, and an entire consumer group to milk and manipulate. Apparently, exploiting young girls with beginner-level lingerie in hopes that they will deliver a lifetime of loyalty to Victoria’s Secret was too big a temptation for Burdfoerfer to refuse – dollar signs overrode decency.
While Victoria’s Secret isn’t the first retailer to peddle sexy undergarments to young girls, their line is perhaps the most sophisticated, resembling more closely the lingerie that these girls might see in their moms’ closets. In fact, when NBC’s TODAY show reported on the “Bright Young Things” product launch, the reporter admitted, “The latest campaign features underwear too racy to show here.”
If it’s too inappropriate for NBC to show on their morning program, that’s probably a good indication that our young girls shouldn’t be wearing it…and moreover, Victoria’s Secret shouldn’t be selling it. As a mom of a 14 year old, I’m wondering where are the cries of moral responsibility and societal ethics. We certainly hear our fair share about corporate responsibility when it comes to the food and drinks marketed to our children, why does that same principle not apply to what apparel we peddle to our tweens?
Our country is replete with an unprecedented number of young girls suffering from eating disorders and body mutilation, while pushing the limits of sexual promiscuity. Is this racy underwear modeled by unrealistically thin girls really the best that we have to offer our girls? In this age when female sex trafficking is becoming a wide-spread crisis, reaching into the depths of our inner cities, is it really responsible for Victoria’s Secret to entice our impressionable young girls with this “come hither” message?
Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem while exacerbating the objectification of her God-given femininity. Our children are being objectified by retailers who see them as nothing more than a path to increased profits.
Victoria’s Secret is ready to sacrifice our daughters’ innocence, compress their childhood, and devalue their self-worth all for the purpose of bolstering their bottom line.