Pink Bags (and Other Baggage)

Is this a post about Jesus? Not so much. I somehow couldn’t manage to fit ‘Jesus’ and ‘pre-teen lingerie’ into the same sentence…Let’s just call it a ‘sacred embodiment’ piece.

I have sad news today for men who are married to/partnered with strong, confident alpha-girls: your wives and girlfriends are not shopping at Victoria’s Secret anymore.

No, it is not something you said. You are not in the dog house, you are not being ‘cut off,’ and you are not being punished for that thing you said last Tuesday. It’s not you–it’s them.

You see, the VS CFO and marketing team realized that middle school girls are spending all their allowance at Target and Jamba juice, when in fact they SHOULD be buying suggestive undergarments. You know–the kind that you like for your strong, progressive, alpha-wives to buy and keep in a special drawer… Anyway, it is no longer enough for the pre-teen set to see these delicates on manequins in the mall, or on super-skinny tv models, or on every other page of those teeny-bopper magazines they read. You know, the ones that rip their fragile, developing sense of self worth to shreds…

No, such subleties are no longer enough to make our young daughters think that they must starve themselves, put out, and pretend to be stupid in order to catch a man–and by so doing, be of value in the world. The game has changed. Now, those fancy, specialty bras are going to be tailor-made for little girls who don’t even have breasts to put in them.

This new line will be called “Bright Young Things.” The panties say things like “call me,” and “Feeling lucky?” If you are not properly horrified yet, you should know that, when NBC shared this news on the Today Show, the reporter said that the ad campaign was ‘too racy’ to air on television.

What’s too racy for television, you might ask? Lately–not much. So we might guess that these ‘bright young things’ are not being modelled by our beloved Heidi Klum…or anyone else in an appropriate age category. No, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a catalog containing 12-year-old lingerie models is coming soon to a mailbox near you.

Did I mention that Justin Beiber performed at the VS fashion show this year? And no, he was not wearing panties with a message on them. Cause he’s a boy. That would be silly.

Thing is, his underwear didn’t have to bear an invitation. He, himself, was the invitation–an all-call to the coming-of-age girls who listen to his (not very good) music, as they wonder what it is like… to be an adult woman with a boyfriend, a grown-up body, a sense of self and purpose and being. In this vulnerable, evolving state, Beiber–himself a minor, under the influence of all sorts of fame and big money–swoops in with a pink striped bag and says, “here, girl… you wear this, and it will be all good.”

Fellas…your brilliant, forward-thinking, successful wives and girlfriends are not prudes. We don’t mind buying this stuff for your viewing pleasure. We just live with a growing awareness–as we get older and wiser–that when we were very young, we were not thinking of you, our future husbands and boyfriends. When we were young–listening to our own Beibers-of-the-day, reading Teen magazine and spending our allowance money at the mall–we were entirely focused on ourselves, and the women we were becoming. After all, that is what adolescence is for. We were wondering what we would look like, who we would be, how we would make a way for ourselves in the world. In hindsight, we now realize how very much we were thinking, not of you– men who might love and value us someday–but men in general. How they saw us, what they thought of us, when and if they might want us… And well, we just wonder how much of our time and money might have been better spent on other daggone things.

Thing is, there is nothing wrong with brightly colored underwear. And putting it in front of a young girl will not ‘make her think about boys’ any more than providing condoms will ‘make teenage boys want to have sex.’ It is out there. It is on their minds. But there is something sinister and disturbing about exploiting the vulnerability of youth in such literal and physical ways. There is something appalling about underage girls wearing an invitation on their rear ends.

I guess what I’m saying is–until a girl has 1)the anatomy to rock that cute bra and 2) a healthy, grown-up relationship–a face and a name to put with that whole ‘making a man want me’ thing–then  Victoria’s Secret does not need her business. (Pun intended) And as long as they want hers, they are sure not going to get ours.

So, perhaps it’s not fair to you, guys, that the woman in your life won’t be bringing home those little pink bags anymore, and the promise of all they imply. But think of it this way…you get us. We, who somehow made it through the jungle of youth, media, marketing and boy bands; we, who know who we are. Against all odds, we are strong, smart, powerful, comfortable-in-our-bodies, healthy and whole women. And not only do you have us–but we have you. You, grown-up, loving, respectful, strong men, who know that the value of a woman lies beyond her bra size, her waist size, or whatever invitation her body implies.  We have you, and we have our lovely, embodied selves. Until the folks who make our undies want the same for our daughters, we will be shopping elsewhere. Blame Beiber, if you must…

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • Johnny Wray

    Thanks, Erin. Great piece. I don’t think I’ve ever shopped at VS but I’m sure I won’t now.

  • Susan Barton

    I recently made the decision not to shop there anymore when the response to my question, “Do you have any cute underwear that will cover my whole bum,” was raised eyebrows and a complete lack of understanding as to why I’d want to cover the entirety of my 30+ , babies have come out of this body, butt! Now, however, I am differently disgusted. I have two boys, so I am fortunate that they are not asking to buy underwear for themselves at V.S.; however, it is a conversation I will have with them because well, it will effect them in one way or another. Thanks for the post Erin.

  • revdave

    Erin,
    I was thinking (as a father of a now-grown young woman) that, since we don’t make our daughters wear T-shirts with messages such as: “Whatever you do to my daughter, I do to you!” or “Remember: 15 will get you 30,” why should we allow them to wear underwear with come-hither messages that boys should never see in the first place? We shouldn’t have to, because none of this stuff should be so tangibly real to them at this point in their lives. Why should we make it reality for them, when it ought to yet be in the realm of wonder and mystery?


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