Victoria’s Secret: Setting Young Girls up for the Weinsteins of Hollywood

I should have seen this one coming. My first red flag went up last November when teen icon Justin Beiber tweeted 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. As you can imagine 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. Cha-ching: 14-year-olds all over America beg their moms to buy them Victoria’s Secret.

Too young, right? it would be years before these teenie-boppers with mostly prepubescent  frames could indulge in Victoria’s Secret sexy lingerie. At least that’s what America believed.

Not the case.

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.”

Based on Burgdoerfer’s logic, one could “magically” offer alcohol available to our preteens. That would make them the cool girls at the frat parties!

What next? Ccondoms, 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 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. And the market craves that market. So why not start winning loyalty from an entire consumer group as early as possible. Manipulating young girls with beginner-level lingerie can engender a lifetime of body-shaming and eating disorders.

While Victoria’s Secret isn’t the first retailer to peddle sexy undergarments to young girls, their line is perhaps the most sophisticated. Victoria’s Secret’s garments are what you find in sexually emancipated women’s closets, not kids’.

Interestingly, 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 a hint. Certainly if it’s too racy for morning TV, our young girls shouldn’t be wearing 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 doesn’t that same principle apply to what apparel companies peddle to our tweens?

Our country is replete with an young girls in sexually over their heads. Most who begin this journey too early suffer from eating disorders and body mutilation. These girls push 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, should Victoria’s Secret provide more enticement to the problem?

Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem. These “playful” but dangerous sayings exacerbate the objectification of young girls’ 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. The company compresses their childhoods, and devalue their self-worth all for the purpose of bolstering their bottom line.

Our daughters are precious, intrinsically valuable and deserve better — they deserve to be cherished and protected.

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