Is Victoria’s Secret targeting teens?

The company has courted controversy yet again by launching its Spring Break-themed "Bright Young Things" campaign

Topics: Sex, Teenagers, Parenting, Victoria's Secret, retail marketing, ,

Is Victoria's Secret targeting teens? (Credit: Victoria's Secret)

Victoria’s Secret is coming under attack for its new “Bright Young Things” campaign advertising a Spring Break-themed line featuring undies emblazoned with slogans like “dare you,” “wild,” “feeling lucky” and “call me.” (Victoria’s Secret doing something tacky? I am shocked, you guys.) More than 2,000 people have signed a Change.org petition for the company to shut down the campaign and pull the collection from shelves. Diana Cherry, the mother of four who started the campaign, wrote in the petition that she was “appalled that Victoria’s Secret is aiming its marketing reach younger and younger.” She argues:

Children are not sex objects; children are not things. Middle schoolers are not old enough to make responsible, safe decisions about sex. This marketing sends the message, ‘the younger, the better,’ which harms young girls’ self-esteem and pressures them into engaging in risky sexual behavior before they are ready to make informed, consenting decisions about sex and their bodies.

The accusation that these undies are being marketed toward tweens and pre-college teens seems to have been inspired in large part by a remark Victoria’s Secret chief financial officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made at a recent conference: “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.” The official story, however, is that Pink is aimed at 18- to 22-year-olds: In a statement responding to the recent controversy, the company said, “Victoria’s Secret PINK is a brand for college-aged women. Despite recent rumors, we have no plans  to introduce a collection for younger women.”

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It seems that both things are true: The company officially targets college-age women — because to skew any younger would be socially unacceptable, which, by the way, is crazy hypocritical given the way our culture fetishizes youth — but clearly with the knowledge that younger women often model themselves after that very demographic. Is that basic business savvy or corrupt capitalism? Again, I’m gonna go with: a little bit of both.

Look, teen girls are smart. They know what the culture expects of them. As long as women are celebrated as things, teen girls will celebrate being things. That is a problem bigger than Victoria’s Secret is tacky.

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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