I know it’s been a rough week for you. That blog post about your “Bright Young Things” advertising campaign went viral, and suddenly parents everywhere are freaking out thinking that you want to sell bras and underwear – and a sexy image – to teen and preteen girls.
But relax. You’re not doing anything wrong.
I mean, first of all, you’re not actually trying to hook the tween market. The Victoria’s Secret PINK line that you’re advertising is a brand designed for college-aged women. Sure, you’ve admitted that you hope 15 and 16 year old girls are attracted to the line, too, but that’s hardly “marketing to pre-teens.” You’re just capitalizing on the truth that high school girls are interested in looking cute and sophisticated.
And so what if you call girls “things” in the ad campaign? Aren’t you just being straightforward about the way your undies, ads, and even sweatpants contribute to the objectification of women? It’s not like you’ve ever tried to keep that “secret”–it’s blasted all over your shop windows, mail order catalogs, and wall-sized hyper-sexualized advertising. You present one size of women, with a photoshopped body, breast implants, and a limited range of racial diversity. You’re clearly into sexual objectification–that’s nothing new.
And even if you were marketing to tweens, so what? You’re a business. Your goal is not to push a moral agenda or to help girls develop into responsible adult women who know how to steward their sexuality gracefully. Your goal is to make money, and the best way to continue to do that is to hook girls with gateway marketing when they are still as young as possible. You need to be sure they’re trained to respond to the regular cycle of new product lines. You need to get those little girls used to the idea that purchasing holds promise for happiness and fulfillment. You need to start convincing them that being sexy (as you define it) will help them find true love.
And let’s be honest: it’s not like your moral failings have caused problems for you in the past. We’ve gotten used to the soft porn of your advertising; we’ve gotten used to seeing “PINK” across the butts of our yoga classmates.
We’ve managed to forget that so many of the underthings you sell come from factories where undocumented immigrants work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, are slapped or beaten if they fall behind on their work, and are often cheated out of their overtime wages.
We’ve even overlooked the fact that the “organic, fair-trade” cotton from Burkina Faso (which makes up 20% of some pairs of your undies) was picked by a 13 year old female slave.
We’re not worried about her.
So it’s likely that all this hubbub over the fact that your advertising might appeal to preteen girls will die down soon enough.