This latest BuzzFeed won’t make your days merry and bright if you’re in tune with the APA study on what these media messages are doing to little girls, for these tween undies in the juniors department of Wal-Mart carried the far from subtle message that girls don’t need money, just a sugar daddy…In this case Santa Claus. (gee, used to be just the sitting on the lap/beard thing creeped kids out)
The slogan, “Who needs credit cards” (on the front) “…when you have Santa” (on the back) was flagged first by Feministing.com, creating a mini-media furor in the blogosphere, as Wal-Mart scrambled to pull the britches from their shelves.
Some coined the hot pink undies “prostitution panties,” ranting that kids’ souls are worth more than $2.96…but for me, I didn’t even cover it, because it’s yet another item to chuck into our film, “Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth.”
Real news here is the powerful evidence of social media’s mobilization for making voices heard. (shades of the Facebook beacon snapback) This headline, “Online Activism, It’s Not Just Whining” from Corporate Babysitter captures it well.
It’s not about these particular panties…In fact, I just came from Target a minute ago and found equally tacky, tasteless snipes, like, “It doesn’t get much sweeter than this” on a sparkly pair of preteen drawers with lip-smacking kisses all over everything and plenty of ‘so sexy so soon’ statements as Dr. Jean Kilbourne would say…
So even though The Consumerist and others track Wal-Mart controversies as sport, the problem is pervasive far beyond big box retailers and Victoria’s Secret/Limited Too tween baiting.
Regular readers know we’ve been studying this phenom with our Body Blitz: Media Shaping Youth film that holds up a lens to K-5 playgrounds and spread-eagle shopping mall displays to witness the trickle down impact of a thongified-hipster-culture fouling up kids’ physical and emotional health…
So I’m not sure why this particular pink think item is getting all the heat…Is it the Santa reference? (because for me, that derriere payoff on the backside actually softens the blow vs. the implication of crotches as commodities on little girls’ panties viewing just the front headline) Either way…Ugh.
It ALL falls into the ‘damaging drek’ category of retail degradation served up to kids with toxic regularity, much like the Abercrombie & Fitch tees a couple years back, “Who needs brains when you have these?”
In fact, here’s Fae Goodman’s AlterNet article on the tween undies topic that Shaping Youth responded to almost two years ago in Feb. ’06, called, Confessions of a Lingerie Lover, with a great lead-in line, “I’m all for sex appeal, but using butts as billboards is disturbing among adult women — and downright scary in prepubescent girls.” (scroll down to the end for my lengthy commentary…I might reprint it here at some point)
All I can figure is that from a media standpoint, Dove’s Onslaught may have primed people’s awareness of the early sexualization of childhood, because this managed to land a front page headline story on FoxNews, with the visual shown here above…
Where have people been? Kids sleazy media messages are EVERYWHERE embedding into kids’ psyches in this era of ‘pocket porn,’ so I find it ironic that parents are finally starting to get outraged, as kids are starting to yawn.
In fact, this NEW study shows young adults find porn more acceptable (which I’d chalk up to a childhood of desensitization from bombardment) whereas the generation of parents are just now climbing into the “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” arena (shades of Howard Beale in the movie, Network).
Here’s more on behavioral research from the APA’s sexuality division…
Coming up in January, the Journal of Adolescent Research will publish a collegiate study of 800+ kids at 6 schools, regarding the proliferation of internet porn over the last decade, and the inaugural STD/HIV prevention conference SexTech: Focus on Youth will come to SFSU with a hefty dose of UGC youth media messaging. (here’s their blog for updates)
Stay tuned for full features on both…Here are a few findings:
“Most young women in the study said they personally did not use porn, but nearly half said viewing X-rated material was an acceptable way to express sexuality. Only 37% of the fathers and 20% of the mothers surveyed agreed.”
“86% of young men reported that they viewed porn in the past year, with one in five viewing it every day or nearly every day.”
The study also linked regular porn use with risky behaviors, like drinking binges and having sex with multiple partners (um, gee, ya think?) and posed some far-reaching questions yet to be addressed. The USA Today article did tip me off to a new beta site for moms called MomLogic though, which looks like it could be interesting…
As their editor voiced, “Children and teenagers are regularly bombarded with X-rated and suggestive images that imply that casual hook-ups are the norm.” Yup. No kidding.
Now puhleeeeeeeeeeze tell me something I don’t emphatically know from our work documenting this over the last three years or so…sigh. I could cut to the chase for a lot of folks coming aboard this media circus train…
Make no mistake, I’m thrilled that the “tacky tot” backlash is finally starting to take hold and glean some traction, I’m just truly amazed that mainstream media is only just now starting to ‘get it’ and cover it.
Meanwhile, commentary on the posts about these panties has been a very insightful, bellwether to the mindset of the internet masses.
Reactions range from hilariously caustic comebacks to ‘why it sells’ deconstruction, best practices in activism, patriarchy slams and flamethrowing free speechisms…
Here’s a representative handful of the wry wit out there:
BY SPINACHDIP AT 12/12/07 03:46 PM @SaveMeJeebus:
“What we need are panties with an obscure Nazi design promoting prostitution, made with lead paint and tainted meat, marked with a “sale” sign indicating a price increase. The thing will be too powerful to pull from shelves.”
BY DRGIRLFRIEND AT 12/11/07 12:12 PM:
“Walmart censors movies and music, but carries a product that suggests that underage girls use their genitals instead of money?”
BY 3DRAGE AT 12/11/07 12:40 PM
“I can see the marketing meeting now. ‘Lindsey and Britney aren’t wearing panties, how on earth are we going to get teens to keep buying them?’ A brief silence falls on the room, and the creepy guy in the back says. “Aha! I have it, slut panties!” Be on the look out for mesh panties that overlay a fake tramp stamp on the small of the back. “For girls under 18 who know what they are going to do in life.”
Adam Smith December 12, 2007 at 10:52 am
“Truth is these teen panties are sold because they shock grown-ups, and teens like to shock grown-ups, so there’s a market for ‘em.
Now, that doesn’t make our shock illegitimate, because the sentiment is legitimately repugnant to thinking beings. But it is the reason this apparel was designed, made, marketed, and why it sells.
Once again, the skeevy invisible hand of the market is touching us inappropriately. I suggest readers in Cary NC or wherever these unmentionables are found should buy the lot of them. Then take them directly to customer service for a full refund. It’ll keep them off the shelves for a day.
Eventually they’ll show up on Walmart’s apparel buyer’s computer as having such a high return/restock rate that they’ll be considered unprofitable and cut from the merchandise list. Don’t just tut-tut. Give that invisible hand a good smacking, folks.”
On Feministing: (reply to Freedom of Speech debate)
Posted by: ShifterCat December 13, 2007 12:42 AM
“*sigh* The panties are not being banned. Banning would be “nobody is allowed to sell these, anywhere, ever, and if you do you may be arrested and fined.”—This is not a freedom of speech issue any more than a radio station firing a particular DJ is. Freedom of speech means that the government cannot punish you for saying certain things — it does not mean that you automatically get a paid forum to say those things. And if a company thinks that keeping you on their payroll is going to cause them to lose listeners and therefore revenue, they are perfectly within their rights to fire you.
Likewise, just because you’re allowed to create panties implying that tween girls have a “moneypot” inside does not give you the right to have said panties sold in major department stores.”
Added directly under it:
Posted by: kissmypineapple December 13, 2007 12:52 AM
“Dananddanica: And if we were strong-arming our thoughts and feelings into legislation regardless of whether we represent the majority of Americans, that would be a problem. (Unless we were whacko fundies, who seem to be given a pass on all that.) However, since it was a corporation, in whose best interest it is to cater to the people who speak up the loudest, since they are typically the ones who will have the greatest effect, then I don’t see what the problem is.
We didn’t stage a coup. No one overtook Walmart headquarters and forced them at gunpoint to take the underwear off the shelves. They wouldn’t have done it if they only received ten angry emails. They weighed cost/benefit along with crappy publicity, and decided it was in their best interest to stop selling the item.
And honestly, I don’t care if my desire to have women be treated like human beings, with respect and decency represents society as a whole. If society is corrupt and inhumane, do we say, oh wells. If we could only get a majority of people to do the ethical thing…guess I won’t try to assert that it’s wrong to treat people that way? Of course not. But I’m glad to see that someone is trying to defend democracy here. Your patriotism is a glorious thing to behold. Now what exactly is the etymology of patriot again?”
My, my, the blogosphere is brimming with some seriously pithy prose…
Yep, a media movement is upon us.
Guess a pornification of childhood backlash is ‘better late than never’…Though an entire generation of kids have taken their behavioral cues from this media/marketing crud for a decade.
I’ll be anxious to hear what all the scholarly probing turns up in January…
Ho-ho-ho. I’ll bet we won’t be laughing…