Spectator's Journal

I Know Victoria’s Secrets

A new clothing line targeted at young girls provides parents with an important teachable moment.

By 3.29.13

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Surprise: Victoria’s secrets have been revealed. All of them. It was only a matter of time before Victoria’s Secret -- the undergarment company responsible for making women confident and men feel hopeful -- lowered their standards and expanded their marketing prowess to target middle-school girls. The company’s new line, “Bright Young Things,” which includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, and hipsters with “Feeling Lucky?” on the tush, has no doubt made 12-year-olds giggle and angered parents. But underwear in this case may provide some invaluable life lessons for both parents and girls.

On the website “The Black Sphere,” mom and writer Amy Gerwing takes the CFO of Limited Brands, the subsidiary that owns Victoria Secret, to task and observes: Apparently, exploiting young girls with beginner-level lingerie in hopes that they will deliver a lifetime of loyalty to Victoria’s Secret was too big a temptation for CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer to refuse -- dollar signs overrode decency. She interprets this sleazy marketing and greedy hand-rubbing as yet another effort to demean and deprave young girls:

Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem while exacerbating the objectification of her God-given femininity. Our children are being objectified by retailers who see them as nothing more than a path to increased profits.

A Texas-based pastor and father, Rev. Evan Dolive, took a gentler approach, even pleading with the company to reconsider their line because of its sexual appeal.

“Bright Young Things” thwarts the efforts of empowering young women in this county...[and] gives off the message that women are sex objects. This new line promotes it at a dangerously young age.

As the mother of two toddler and preschool daughters (who, yes, shops at Victoria’s Secret for myself) I can understand the frustration. Were my girls already middle-school age, I wouldn’t want boys or men, whether with healthy and twisted minds, to ogle at my daughters and their undergarments (or even be in the terrifyingly curious position of being able to view them at all).

Still I can’t help but be confused at some of the anger and particularly the blame.  Newflash: Victoria’s Secret sells undergarments. Sexy ones.  They’re also a for-profit company whose goal is, get this, to make money. Is it morally reprehensible for them to target girls ages 10-14? Yes. But parents aren’t powerless.

The best way to get a company not to sell something is to refuse to buy it. Sometimes old-fashioned boycotts work. Also, thankfully a middle-schooler can’t even drive herself to a Victoria’s Secret. So unless she goes online, the only way she’s buying underwear that says “Call me” is if an adult or an older sibling (presumably with permission) takes her.

Finally, while parents most certainly should express their concern to the company and could even call for a boycott of the line, the best thing they should do to combat underwear for their own bright young things is to seize this teachable moment.  While difficult in today’s media-infested world and its busy schedules, an ongoing conversation especially father/father-figure to daughter about where her worth comes from will be the strongest combatant against the desire to buy a sexy pair of tiny hipsters.

Men play a vital role in this avenue of a woman-child’s life. Just as he knows a man may eventually and rightfully enjoy the fruits of this company in an appropriate, consenting context and much later in life (as can she!), he can pave the way for his daughter to see her worth, her body, and her sexuality in the right light.  Dads can show their daughters the value of a healthy self-esteem, that self-worth comes from God and within  --  not from boys  --  and that donning sexy underwear at this stage only perpetuates an image she doesn’t want to portray. In developing this respectful relationship and exploring these important topics, she may not want to wear the new line and will resist the temptation of her male and female peers to do so as well.

Underneath the piece on Black Sphere, a commenter said of this particular cultural battle parent’s face: “Yes it is ultimately the parent's job, but it would be nice to get even the tiniest bit of help from society.” I agree; it sure would be. I’m guessing our parents thought the same thing, and their parents before them. But I wouldn’t count on it. Shame on Victoria’s Secret for targeting the youngest, most moldable of our girls and trying to persuade them their value lies in their booty call. But shame on parents who throw up their hands and say it’s all society’s fault.  Just because Victoria reveals all her secrets, doesn’t mean girls have to as well.

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About the Author

Nicole Russell writes from Northern Virginia.