Family Matters

‘Bright Young Things': Victoria’s Secret’s Line Under Fire

Sex sells, but are suggestive-marketing campaigns right for tweens and teens?

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Diana Cherry’s daughters are ages 2, 5 and 6, way too young to consider flaunting lacy thongs that beckon “Call Me” on the crotch.

But Cherry, a stay-at-home mom in Seattle, is still outraged over a recent line of Victoria’s Secret lingerie and clothing that more than a few mothers suspect is targeting tweens and teens with its neon shades, girlish lace and plenty of bling.

“This is not about my kids,” says Cherry, who launched a Facebook page and a petition on Change.org urging Victoria’s Secret to pull its Bright Young Things line that features suggestive messages on panties and willowy models that some parents suspect aren’t old enough to have a driver’s license. More than 13,000 people have signed her petition. “Of course, I care about my daughters, but I’m angry about the messages young girls in general are getting. I want girls to grow up feeling confident to be who they are and not sex objects.”

How successful was Cherry’s campaign? That depends on how you chose to interpret the fact that Bright Young Things thongs, hoodies and capris — part of the company’s PINK collection, launched in 2004 to target co-eds — is no longer available on the Victoria’s Secret website. Limited Brands, the parent company for Victoria’s Secret, noted in a statement released to journalists that its new “pre-summer” line arrived in stores and online this week, replacing Bright Young Things. In any case, the company says that PINK and any items associated with it are aimed at college-aged women, not tweens. According to the statement from the Limited Brands:

Despite rumors, we have no plans to introduce a collection for younger women. “Bright Young Things” was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition.

The Bright Young Things campaign is only the latest retail effort to raise ire among parents about the impression these messages leave on young girls in particular. In February, mom bloggers hammered footwear brand Skechers for its “Daddy’$ Money” campaign surrounding a line of wedge sneakers imprinted with lips, “Gimme Megabucks” and “Gimme Wicked” that urged teens to “get spoiled with Daddy’$ Money.” “We don’t want them thinking that instead of working for things, they just go ask Daddy (or whatever other man they have in their life in the future),” blogged Jeanne Sager on the Stir. Abercrombie & Fitch has also been criticized for overly revealing catalog images and thong underwear for children emblazoned with “Eye Candy” and “Wink Wink.”

(MORE: Moms: Guilty of Driving Their Daughters to Early Puberty?)

While the Limited executives deny targeting a younger and impressionable demographic, Cherry takes offense at comments made at an investor conference in January by one Limited official. According to her petition:

Victoria’s Secret may claim that PINK is for college women but their Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made it clear when asked about Victoria’s Secret’s PINK lingerie line that they are trying to reach a teen audience. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? 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,” said Burgdoerfer.

But should anyone be walking around in undies that declare “Dare You,” “Call Me” or “Feeling Lucky?” like some of the missives printed on the manufacturer’s spring-break inventory? That’s certainly a matter of personal taste — for adults. But for young girls, “This speaks to the idea that girls have a fantasy of being raped, that women on some level are asking for it,” says Dana Udall-Weiner, a Santa Fe, N.M., psychologist who works with girls on body image.

(MOREMom Puts Her 7-Year-Old Daughter on a Diet, Then Writes About It in Vogue)

And what of the name itself: Bright Young Things? Just as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is urging women to “lean in,” should we tolerate an ad campaign that refers to girls or women as “things”? Girls in their early teens and midteens are particularly vulnerable to this kind of characterization because their sense of self is still developing. “Campaigns like this encourage girls to think of themselves as objects and not as full-fledged humans with ideas and feelings,” says Udall-Weiner.

That’s exactly why Cherry took her indignation online. Girls get enough subliminal messages about how they should look and act without a major manufacturer spelling it out on a polka-dotted hipster.

“To quote your itty bitty panties, call me,” posted Kelli Clement, a Minneapolis mom, on Cherry’s petition. “I’ll tell you why your sexualization of young girls makes me so sad.”

56 comments
sexyhethr
sexyhethr

Lorraine I totally agree with you. I'm sorry to say this but after reading that I feel like some people are making a way way WAY bigger deal over a freaking line of panties. wow. I think some people assumed bright young things were for younger teen girls but Vs even stated it was more for college age women.. I personally have numerous pairs of vs Pink panties that have fun sayings like awesome and call me, complete with lace and embellishments that I purchased over a year ago. I'm 26... and I love that kind of stuff. Vs has plenty of panties and bras girls could wear at an age when their mom feels its appropriate to buy for them but until theyre ready just simply don't buy it! No need to smash something other people may be able to enjoy. Im not saying I feel its ok for a 13 yr old to wear a thong saying call me. The brand already stated this line wasn't for younger women anyway so I don't understand the huge deal over this when there's so many other serious issues in this world... and yet some people are choosing to focus their time and energy on an underwear line. C'mon people, don't get your panties in such a bunch!

sexyhethr
sexyhethr

Lorraine I totally agree with you. I'm sorry to say this but after reading that I feel like some people are making a way way WAY bigger deal over a freaking line of panties. wow. I think some people assumed bright young things were for younger teen girls but Vs even stated it was more for college age women.. I personally have numerous pairs of vs Pink panties that have fun sayings like awesome and call me, complete with lace and embellishments that I purchased over a year ago. I'm 26... and I love that kind of stuff. Vs has plenty of panties and bras girls could wear at an age when their mom feels its appropriate to buy for them but until theyre ready just simply don't buy it! No need to smash something other people may be able to enjoy. Im not saying I feel its ok for a 13 yr old to wear a thong saying call me. The brand already stated this line wasn't for younger women anyway so I don't understand the huge deal over this when there's so many other serious issues in this world... and yet some people are choosing to focus their time and energy on an underwear line. C'mon people, don't get your panties in such a bunch!

JoelA.Ohmer
JoelA.Ohmer

Perverts and pedophiles rejoice ... this is sick.

GregHancock
GregHancock

My wife and I were shocked and appalled to see this was even a consideration a person at a company would make; let alone actually produce.  It is worse than the JC Penny jeans ad with the mother pulling her daughter's pants down to her crotch before sending her off to school.  My daughter doesn't need this, my SON doesn't need this, and our society doesn't need this.  Thank you to anyone and everyone who has had a hand in stopping it.

Higg's_Bosom
Higg's_Bosom

This is kind of strange. I thought women bought lingerie for themselves and not for men? I remember female friends in early middle school who had acquired thongs just because it made them feel kinda sexy and cool, but they weren't sexually active. Anecdotal but relevant, I feel; more relevant than the quack of a psychologist quoted toward the end, anyway.

Also, lol @ mom bloggers. "We don’t want them thinking that instead of working for things, they just go ask Daddy." Really? Then you ought to teach them that.

AliaAynes
AliaAynes

I signed the petition and even commented on the above mentioned FB page.  I was particularly bothered by the messages written on the panties- panties that looked like they would appeal to young girls.  I'm a regular Victoria's Secret shopper and I actually stopped short in the middle of my online order when I first came across the news.  I looked and right there on their website, they were really selling this stuff.  It bothered me that some of these panties had implied sexual invitations on them- I felt it perpetuates a culture that sexually objectifies women.  I also felt like it made Victoria's Secret's sexy image seem more trashy- not something I'd particularly like to associate myself with.  I am so glad that Victoria's Secret listened to their customers and made fast change.  I have been back shopping and all of the controversial stuff is gone.  No more "I Dare You" panties.  I'm glad I can keep shopping there now that they are getting on the right track.

ABHuret
ABHuret

@drseisenberg I can understand marketing this to college girls, but enough with the Toddlers & Tiaras set. : /

Josephine Ive
Josephine Ive

This is not the only company targeting and attempting to influence children, I feel sorry for parents on this issue.

AtTheRazorsEdge
AtTheRazorsEdge

@TIME Ya know, perhaps it's because I'm a smoker...but Muenster doesn't seem all that better than Swiss really. Different, maybe.

IvySyn
IvySyn

@TIME please why are people getting so fired up?regardless girls still dress up inappropriately for their age...

THEHCC
THEHCC

@TIMEHealthland File that under "What were they thinking?". That is not even acceptable as a PR stunt

AlexiaNguyen
AlexiaNguyen

Pedophile would love ‘Bright Young Things’: Victoria’s Secret’s Line

diana_sel
diana_sel

@TIME it is sort of wrong from VS to be targeting girls that young.

atecelia
atecelia

@TIME Are their sales down? Now they're targeting children who mostly don't even have boobies?

Aliya_L
Aliya_L

@TIME - disgusting. Thanks for sharing. "Victoria's Secret's new line is under fire for targeting teens and tweens | ti.me/173CaH3"

nictellectual
nictellectual

And what of the name itself: Bright Young Things? Just as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is urging women to “Lean In,” should we tolerate an ad campaign that refers to girls or women as “things”?

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/29/bright-young-things-victorias-secrets-line-under-fire/#ixzz2OyGSfBON

Michael Jackson wrote the song PYT. Pretty Young "Things"... no one cared. If you want to raise your children in the land of the free, you better know how to raise them to think highly of themselves instead of getting mad at corporations for doing business. Put your teen-aged girl in a bubble for crying out loud.

leodaniels
leodaniels

@TIME This is so crazy. I think this line is geared towards college aged girls(18-24) and petite women, certainly not Tweens.

PigtailPals
PigtailPals

. @girlgotch You're welcome. The more parents aggregate our voices against sexualization, retailers will be forced to operate differently.

sabinal0602
sabinal0602

@nictellectual thank you...I have nieces and like to believe they do not take advice from statements on underwear...

besides "Bright Young Things" is a ripoff  - it was originally a slogan for rich 20 year old Brits from the 1920s

ShapingYouth
ShapingYouth

@PigtailPals feels like decade-old circular convo w/media-mktg mayhem/money, flare ups of parental anger, then...crickets. Cycle repeats.