We all know it. We all feel it. The stress, the joy, and the monumental exhaustion that goes along with being a mom. Moms today are bombarded by all kinds of responsibilities, from taking care of the family to working and everything in between. And along with all that responsibility comes the joy of worrying. We worry an awful lot. And if we have tween daughters, our worry is multiplied by 100. These days, it seems that our generation of mothers face more challenges than every generation before us.
But there is one thing that moms of tween girls have to deal with in an unprecedented way, and it’s creating plenty of fine lines on our delicate faces. And that is society’s push to sexualize our girls at a very young age.
The media is targeting girls as young as 7 years old and sending out terribly inappropriate messages to them about things that they just need not know about yet. From the most high-fashion magazines like Vogue France, which in 2014 had a four-page layout of 10-year-old girls dressed up like women with high heels, jewelry, makeup and yes, very sexy and provocative pouts, to companies like Victoria’s Secret teen line PINK that made headlines a few years back for showcasing models that looked much younger than their standard of 15 in sexy push-up bras and panties, all trying to look like the much older runway models that Victoria’s Secret is so well known for. In the case of Victoria’s Secret, Huffington Post contributors Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Gavin Newsom (who also happens to be the lieutenant governor of California) called it right:
“It’s not that thongs meant for young women emblazoned with phrases like “Call Me” and “Feeling Lucky?” are entirely shocking coming from Victoria’s Secret, but more that they insisted on comparing our young daughters to objects and things in order to sell them this lingerie.
"Not only is Victoria’s Secret encouraging girls to sexualize themselves at younger and younger ages, but they’re teaching men and boys to value girls’ sexuality at younger and younger ages. This is dangerous.”
In a recent survey, we asked moms what they were the most concerned about with their tween. What quickly rose to the number two concern (just below mood swings!) was body image. Moms are very concerned that the overly sexual, inappropriate messages to young girls about how girls and women should be valued are destroying their daughters’ healthy sense of self and appreciation of their bodies.
Here are a few tips to help marketers avoid these pitfalls:
1. Your advertising should focus less on her looks and more on her as a girl. The content should promote and show girls as leaders, promoting great self image, being a friend/being inclusive, being smart, confident and creative — not just pretty.
2. Creative elements should focus on what girls actually look like versus the stereo typical overly slim, tall, long-legged colt of so many ads. Girls come in all shapes, sizes and colors and they should be represented as such. Girls and moms should see themselves in the photos, videos and copy.
3. Tween girls are often embarrassed about the changes in their bodies. Enlighten her about the miracle of her body. Provide content about how amazing it is to have a body that can jump, run, bike, swim, etc. Her body is a treasure and a vessel for her to reach her potential in life. Help give her tools to embrace it and realize how lucky she is to have it working for her every day.
4. Moms make the purchases. Be aware that moms still hold the purse strings at this age and girls under 13 are covered under COPA laws so while your advertising is showing girls, the moms are the ones that are making final decisions to buy. They want their daughter and the brands that they purchase to be a safe, friendly and supportive environment for them. Brands that don’t heed this warning will find themselves in a heap of trouble via social media — moms share both good and bad and they do it quickly.