It's no revelation that Victoria's Secret wants teenage girls in its stores and through its checkout lines, full bags in hand. The lingerie giant views its Pink line, technically aimed at the college crowd, as its carrot-on-a-stick.
“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?” asked the company's CFO at a recent conference. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”
But with the line's new "Bright Young Things" spring campaign, there's growing concern that Victoria's Secret wouldn't mind even younger customers.
And that has Evan Dolive up in arms.
The father and interim minister at Bethany Christian Church in Houston, Tex., just penned an open letter to Victoria's Secret, saying that marketing sexy bras and panties to middle school-age girls "makes me sick":
I believe that this sends the wrong message to not only my daughter but to all young girls. I don’t want my daughter to ever think that her self-worth and acceptance by others is based on the choice of her undergarments.
Dolive is far from alone. "Victoria's Secret is coming for your Middle Schooler" got his blood boiling first, as author Amy Gerwing expressed similar outrage:
As of this spring, the risqué brand will launch an undergarment line aimed specifically at pre-teens and young teen age girls. And lest you think that Victoria’s Secret has toned down their recognizably racy style to appeal to this younger demographic, think again.
The new brand called, “Bright Young Things,” includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front.
The Victoria's Secret official Facebook page has been abuzz with protest posts over the Bright Young Things line over the last several days, particularly since Dolive's open letter hit the Internet:
ABC's Nightline focused a segment on teenage (and even younger) girls who purchase Victoria's Secret merchandise:
The mom featured toward the end of the Nightline piece with the decidedly permissive perspective regarding her nine-year-old daughter's clothing choices caused a bit of stir with her blog post, "Victoria's Secret's New Teen Lingerie Is Something All Moms Should Be Happy About":
...as the mom of a girl that is soon going to decide she doesn’t want cartoon characters on her underwear, and will be wearing a bra sooner rather than later, I’m going to have to figure out where we’re going to purchase them.
It’ll probably be Victoria’s Secret -- and I have no problem with that. I even like that fact that they are marketing toward a younger audience. What’s wrong with having fun, bright-colored underwear? Girls change all the time in front of each other -- for sports or recreational activities that require it, at slumber parties or camp, for the school play … no one wants to be the girl with the ugly underwear.
The author, Jenny Erikson, responded (kind of) to the wide coverage and disquiet that her views elicited, basically saying she was amused:
It does crack me up that I’m getting so much attention for talking about underwear. I’ve been blogging about news and politics for over four years now, having probably at least touched upon every topic there is to touch upon, and I’ve even worked on a presidential campaign as a senior copywriter. But panties?? LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT!
But it doesn't seem as though many others are laughing with her. Amy Graff, who writes for The Mommy Files at the SFGate site, says marketing campaigns such as Bright Young Things sexualize young girls:
Girls these days are growing up way too fast and they’re missing out on those wonderful carefree years when they can look at themselves in the mirror and laugh, giggle and make funny faces and see a beautiful young girl—rather than look in the mirror and worry about their hair, their weight, their clothes, and how their boobs look in a push-up bra and a pair of hipster panties.
What’s more, I worry that these lingerie lines are sexualizing teens. After all, Victoria’s Secret is the company putting out a catalog that many men in America have looked through while masturbating. It’s the Playboy magazine that you can safely receive in your mailbox. And this is all fine but do young girls need to be wearing undergarments coming out of this catalog?
Yes, their bras can work wonders on boobs and they’ve got some cute panties, even if they’re poorly made, but do 13 year olds, even 16 year olds, need to be wearing them?
Which is why Rev. Dolive asked Victoria's Secret in his open letter to cease and desist.
"I believe that this new line 'Bright Young Things' thwarts the efforts of empowering young women in this county," he writes. "'Bright Young Things' gives off the message that women are sex objects. This new line promotes it at a dangerously young age. I implore you to reconsider your decision to start this line. By doing so you will put young girl’s self-esteem, self-worth and pride above profits."