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Victoria's Secret marketing sexualizes tween girls, writers say

Concerned voices from feminist and Christian paradigms are condemning Victoria’s Secret for marketing a “college line” of sexy underwear to high school girls who in many cases are just entering their teenage years.

Last week in USA Today, clinical psychologist and author Jill Weber penned an op-ed with the headline, “Sexy teen lingerie sends all the wrong messages.”

Weber wrote, “Victoria's Secret recently began stretching its college brand, Pink, to also appeal to high school girls. … If we dismiss this move by retailers too easily, we miss noticing the subtle ways that our girls are trained to focus on their external appearance at the expense of developing a more complete identity. …

“The culture's obsession with sexualizing girls is a juggernaut that can be overwhelming to their parents and caregivers. At the very least, let's find ways to discuss with girls the point of view about sex these products represent. And talk about how complicated and destructive that point of view can be to their long-term happiness.”

In February, Weber published the book “Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy.” Library Journal’s review of the new book summarized that “Weber exhorts girls and women to stop offering sex in the hope of gaining emotional intimacy with men.”

On March 9, Christian Post blogger Karen Farris didn’t just stop at indicting the apparel industry’s marketing practices in a post titled “Victoria’s Secret Exposed” — she also suggested some scripture that can combat the effects of predatory marketing.

“With new ads featuring skimpily dressed young girls, tweens are now spending their babysitting dollars on string bikinis and undies with ‘Wild’ written across the backside,” Farris wrote. “Victoria’s Secret cash registers are happily accepting these dollars and today’s little girls are playing grown-up in a world with consequences they aren’t yet old enough to understand. …

“There is still something we can do and it won’t cost a cent — teach our girls about the Proverbs 31 kind of woman. She was successful, prosperous, happy, and she certainly had the right kind of respect because she clothed herself properly. … Our girls deserve that kind of respect and it's being taken from them before they are old enough to know better.”

A Feb. 14 article on the Bloomberg website looked at the business of why and how Victoria’s Secret is targeting younger customers.

“Clothing stores eager to boost sales see a goldmine in women’s intimates,” Sapna Maheshwari reported for Bloomberg. “The category now generates more than $11.1 billion in annual sales. … Victoria’s Secret was among the first to tap the market (for younger buyers), introducing Pink in 2004. The sub-brand is geared toward college girls, with sweatshirts emblazoned with university sports team logos and brightly-colored bras and panties. … While shopped by a variety of ages, (Pink) is a hit with younger customers and working to lure more. At the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November, the company hired teen heartthrob Justin Bieber to perform during a segment showcasing Pink merchandise.”

In 2011, Deseret News reporters Lois Collins and Sara Lenz produced a two-part series about societal influences sexualizing girls at increasingly young ages. Those stories jointly won the Council on Contemporary Families’ 2012 Award for Print Coverage of Family Issues.



Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.
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