Conversation With My Pre-Teen About Victoria's Secret Underwear

So, recently there's been some hubbub about Victoria's Secret possibly marketing to teens and younger girls.

Let's look into this a second, shall we?

Last fall, Justin Bieber was the main event at a Victoria's Secret fashion show - that is, the main event other than super-skinny women with perfectly curved and coiffed everything.

Because, you know, Justin Bieber's target audience is college-aged and twenty-something women, so it makes sense that he'd be helping to promote sexy  lingerie for adults.

Heh. I'm just kidding. Justin Bieber's target audience is little girls who have only recently outgrown their My Little Pony lunch boxes, most of whom don't even have the hips to hold up pantaloons other than Hello Kitty briefs.

Victoria's Secret representatives say that, sure, girls in the 15 and 16-year-old range want to be "like the big girls" and gussy up their curvy bits in sexy, fun, self-esteem enhancing undergarments. That's my interpretation of what they said, more or less.

Victoria's Secret knows the demographics when it comes to who is shopping in their stores. No shying away from the truth there. But hey, don't even younger girls want to be like the 15 and 16-year-olds? Tweens are a huge market.
How To Look Like A Victoria's Secret Angel In Middle School
"Since you are in middle school, you might not fit in their lingerie. But, you can dress in a few of their things. On a daily basis, the models wear dark wash skinny or boot-cut jeans and short shorts, blouses with 3 buttons undone, lacy camisoles, off-the-shoulder shirts, mini skirts, short dresses, maxi dresses, etc....Get Victoria's Secret underwear as soon as you can."
I hear complaints from parents who have trouble finding clothes that aren't poorly made or don't have hems and cutaways rarely seen this side of a Vegas review. It's no surprise some moms and dads are on edge about the prospect of Victoria's Secret marketing to even younger consumers.

There's a big "so what" there. As in "So what. Just don't buy it if you don't agree with the marketing."

Well, sure...voting with our dollars sometimes feels like the most meaningful vote we have.

And right, parenting isn't easy.  No one said parenting would be easy. And in a world of advertising and entertainment media that present mixed messages about what kind of girl is the right kind of girl, our job as parents is to teach, question, guide, listen, and sometimes pull back the reins on just how much of that mixed message our daughters come in contact with on a daily basis...whether that's turning off the television or sitting with our kids and talking about what they are watching or monitoring Internet use.

But, excuse me also if I fight back the Mad Men's big guns by being very clear as to the message behind my held-back dollars. Pardon my attempts to level the battlefield.

Here's one battlefield created by non-stop marketing of specific types of teenage sexuality: I've heard tell on the Internets that some middle school gym class locker rooms could be absolute hell for the 7th grade girl who wears plain white Hanes underpants. Parents are gently reprimanded for making their Plain Jane kid a target for teasing. Parents are told that this is reason enough for buying your 11-year-old something, er, a little more grown-up. Or "fun." Or "cute." Because, you see, "all the other kids are doing it." Ehem.


I'm sure you see the problem with insinuating that the kid who is comfortable in Plain Jane clothes is, essentially, the one who has to change what she's wearing to conform to the sensibilities of other 11-year-olds who want to dress like the big girls. That Plain Jane shouldn't expect her sense of well-being and self-esteem to come from, oh, how about not being teased. On the contrary...feeling good about oneself comes after giving-in to the stink-eye of classmates and dressing Just The Right Way.

Other battlefields?

I'm sure you see the problem with subjecting young girls to manufactured and ridiculous - almost science fiction kooky - stereotypes of female beauty and sexuality, e.g., "healthy sexuality all comes down to tiny underwear with come-hither slogans plastered across your butt."

I don't need to describe the body image gauntlet most young girls start running in elementary school and hopefully finish without an eating disorder or lifelong helping of self-loathing every time they look in the mirror or try on a pair of pants.

I won't go into why it's preferable to allow our daughters to take growing-up at a slower clip instead of allowing pre-teens to run headlong into a definition of feel-good adult sexuality that ignores all the physical, social, and emotional challenges and responsibilities of  - as the underwear says -"Feeling Lucky."

Too much? It's all just underwear?

Anyway....

As a sort of temperature check, I had a conversation with my 11-year-old daughter recently about undergarments for young women. Just to see if I had a kid who might be sneaking to the mall behind my back to buy itchy thongs with racy slogans printed on them.

Mother: If Victoria's Secret made underwear for middle-school girls, would you want me to buy you some?

11-year-old: What? Why?

Mother: Well, you know. Because in the gym class locker room when you are getting changed, you feel bad about your plain cotton underwear.

11-year-old: I get dressed quickly. Who's even looking at each other's underwear. That's weird.

Mother: Some girls say they feel bad not having fancy underwear. They want to have cute underwear because it's fun. It makes them feel happy or grown-up.

11-year-old: I never, ever, ever, ever think about my underwear. I couldn't even tell you which ones I'm wearing right now.

Mother: So you don't feel bad about your underwear?

11-year-old:  



Mother: Okay then.


9 comments:

Sarah said...

Her look... PURE AWESOME.

Spacemom said...

I sometimes wonder if we overthink things! :) I love that look!

josetteplank.com said...

Sarah: I get that look a lot. :-)

Spacemom: Oh,I'm SURE I overthink things at times. My kids are patient with me, though. :-)

Andrea said...

I admit that I have put off taking my teenager to buy cute underwear because I can only see the downsides of a teenager feeling sexually confident. I'm all about awkwardness!

josetteplank.com said...

Andrea: I think that the myth we're sold is that all it takes to feel sexually confident is a fasting diet, enough make-up, and the right underpants.

Sexual confidence is a healthy body, knowledge about being safe, and an understanding of the emotional, psychological and even spiritual readiness and consequences of acting on sexuality. If my kid thinks it's just having lacy matching bra and panties, she's probably not there yet.

natalie seitz said...

I am the mom of a 15 year old,so I've been there and done the tween stage.My daughter owns one pair of VS yoga pants,because they are comfortable,but would rather die then wear panties or anything else with huge letter on the butt-or crotch.The thing that VS is not getting is that their underwear,albeit cheaply made,is cute-without the slutty come-ons,and more girls might actually buy them with those.Their explanation of the "Bright Young Things' line being actually geared toward college age girls and not tweens,either means they really don't get college age girls-no selfrespecting 20 year old would wear that stuff,or they are lying and this was and still is geared for their new target audience-tweens.I'd love to hear from a mom who would put her 11 year old into a thong with "let's make out' on the scortch.

josetteplank.com said...

Natalie, I agree, I think some of the stuff is cute. And I think there is a difference between 15 and 12 and - of course - 9yo (which I *think* is still considered tween.) It's the entire marketing of VS I don't want my tween to get too wrapped up in.

And I do know sensible tween who don't get immersed in the "messages" of the marketing. Put as a parent, I don't think anyone can blame us for sometimes wanting the easy choice: not yet, not now, let's give this decision another year or two.

Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts on this!

natalie seitz said...

Thanks.Sshoot I just saw my error----more girls might buy them without those sluttu slogans----is what I should have typed.My daughter calls VS Sexyfied Justice.

Jennifer said...

These are comfortable, no seams showing and hide any imperfections! I think they are great! I will probably order more at http://www.apparelnbags.com/bali/index.htm

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