Another Name for a Three Way

26 Mar

And what exactly is meant by a “MULTI-WAY”? Aerie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. But I guess you can’t know shame if you don’t know modesty.

Aerie is the underwear company started by American Eagle Outfitter (AEO) in 2006, which targets the “teen lingerie market” according to businessinsider.com, and which recently hired Jenn Rogien, the costume designer from the HBO series “Girls,” and also promotes the “concert bra,” a push-up bra promoted at the music festival Coachella, which can be worn on its own or with outer garments and which comes with matching panties. Aerie runs an ad with a close up to illustrate their push-up bra that adds two cup sizes. The image is followed by another showing animated words “DOUBLE WHOA” appearing on top of the feigning surprised young model’s body. Although the company purports to target the 18 to 21 age group, Bloomberg reports that Aerie’s VP of Global Merchandising, Jennifer Foyle, admitted recently that the younger focus is “timely because you do see this as a growing category in the industry for sure.”  PrimalGrowth business strategy consultants state the obvious: “Stores are all going to say they’re targeting the 18- to 22- year olds, but the reality is you’re going to get the younger customer.”  Of course the companies say they’re not targeting tweens, but parents, rightfully, aren’t buying it.  Another parent of a three-year old (my own daughters are 23 and almost 3), wrote a letter to Victoria’s Secret expressing his concern about the sexualization of young girls, and it must be striking a chord because it’s gone viral, and VS is denying his claims (my lady doth protest too much?).

On Valentine’s Day this year, Bloomberg.com ran a story about the burgeoning tween lingerie industry. According to the article, female intimate apparel (I don’t think we can call it “women’s” anymore) is an $11.1 billion industry, with Victoria’s Secret youth line “Pink” estimated to take $3 billion of the market in just a few years. American Eagle was among top-performing retail stocks last year, at a time when it is cutting back on other apparel in favor of expanding its lines of bra, underwear and loungewear (Aerie F.I.T. line – not sure I want to know what that is said to stand for behind closed AEO doors – but I invite any AEO’rs to spill the beans — I promise anonymity).

One thing AEO needs to keep in mind is that parents, moms of girls in particular (and I rarely distinguish between moms and dads but here is a rare occasion it’s appropriate), hate being the object of deception. While Aerie is claiming to target 18 to 21 year olds, it runs ads where a young looking and acting model skips topless, wearing thongs, making faces, holding her hair up in pigtails, playing peekaboo, undressing, swaying her hips while standing pigeon-toed and pouty-mouthed, floating toy sailboats in a pond wearing nothing but bra and panties, while a young Mick Jagger like voice sings “I just wanna run away with you.” Multiple times, the word “PRETTY” is seen in white lettering on a boathouse behind the almost naked model.

Aerie’s Foyle told Bloomberg, “[w]e really use the word ‘pretty’ more than ‘sexy’ — that’s really not the Aerie girl.” From a quick search, it appears Aerie primarily uses Sports Illustrated swimsuit models for their ads (Nina Agdal and Cintia Dicker). Pretty not sexy, huh?

I found the Aerie ads on several sites that clearly view the ads as more sex than aesthetics.  One, guyspeed.com, describes Aerie as a “mall lingerie store for college-aged girls and those who skew a wee but younger,” and calls a holiday commercial featuring Agdal’s “rock hard body,” “certainly more, uh, mature…”  It continues, stating, “We really like it when she models undies for Aerie. We get to see lots of her body.”  Another, whoisthathotadgirl.tumbler.com features several Aerie ads, introducing “another American Eagle commercial featuring Cintia (with a little topless action…).”  On spike.com, the “PRETTY” ad is described: “Brazilian model Cintia Dicker’s breasts go “Whoa” and increase in this sexy” — note, not pretty — “new spot for Aerie’s push-up bras.”

So what does Rogien think of girl’s underwear, if it’s not sex?  Before being hired by Aerie, the former Girl’s show costume designer told Women’s Wear Daily that lingerie factored into each character.  According to Rogien, “There’s a lot of sex in the show, but its not sexy sex. It’s awkward, funny and sometimes silly sex, and underwear is a big part of it. There’s a lot of underwear as we head into these sex scenes,” she said.  This distinction between “funny” and “silly” sex (as opposed to, what, grumpy and grave sex) sounds more like justification.  It’s an awful lot like her distinction between sexy and pretty — useless.

Even the leering boy bloggers know what’s up.  Spike.com comments on Aerie’s ad campaign titled “Love is Funny.”  (Sounding familiar?)  They note: “Why [is it called “Love is Funny]? I have no idea. The video doesn’t seem to have anything to do with love, and is not funny. At all. You may fall in love with Cintia and her model friends that traipse around in their underwear giggling and loving life. But that’s more lust than love, right?  And there is nothing wrong with lust.”  Well, it depends — on a lot, age probably being first and foremost.

Aerie, you remind me of a 13 year old who tells me the peppermint schnapps smell is from the candy canes at her school’s Christmas party and that the smoke is second hand. Moms can smell BS a mile away, and you are putting it right under our noses. Your crossing the line may raise your stock in the short term and endear you to skeezy and horny adolescent males, but at least in the tween category, we still hold the purse strings.

Aerie, of course, isn’t the only offender.  Victoria’s Secret is the center of a firestorm over its plans (now shelved) to launch a line aimed at a younger audience (like, Aerie, VS denies that its targeting very young girls, but the ads speak for themselves).  Its “Bright Young Things” campaign has gotten whiplash over the backlash, with countless people vowing to ban not just the line but the VS brand if it goes forward with the full launch, and an online petition at www.forcechange.org asking the CEO to stop the objectification of young girls and women.  It reads, in part:  “[you] feature younger looking teen models who are scantily clad and provocatively posed and the slogan, ‘Bright Young Things.’  By choosing to target teenagers with your new line, you are condoning teen sexuality and portraying teens as sexual objects.  Your slogan refers to young women as ‘things,’ rather than many more appropriate alternatives.”  I wonder at what point the negative press stops being free advertising for these companies and becomes the wake up call it should be.

The issue has become more serious than whether parents will buy the bra (or whatever else they’re selling) or young girls will find a way to buy it themselves, or if boys will buy it for them.

In February, New Jersey busted a child pornography ring, arresting 25 individuals, including two who were regular baby sitters and one who was a registered sex offender.  The porn obtained in the bust included footage of children ranging from toddlers to ten-year olds who were the victims of rape, sodomy, necrophilia, bestiality and other incomprehensible crimes against humanity.  The ring spanned eleven counties across the state.  According to reports, the files also showed prepubescent boys and girls being sexually molested or being forced into performing sex acts on themselves or others.

Aerie, I’m not saying you are responsible for sexual crimes against children, but targeting a very young market with ads like the one that arrived at my door this morning that sound like the name of a porn flick (“MADDIE MULTI-WAY”), you are walking a line too thin to ignore.  You hire the savviest, most experienced advertisers, marketers, and decision makers for your company.  Don’t tell me you didn’t intend the double entendres.  It is a slippery slope from accepting this kind of sexual imagery to child porn just being taken as a fact of life.

It is unacceptable.

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