Written by Daniel Kilkelly
Abercrombie, the clothing giant that in the past year started to eat away at young girls insecurities; I’m talking about their release of padded bikini tops this past March. I hope to discuss not merely the ethical circumstances surrounding this product; moreover, what Abercrombie’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be in this matter.
To get it out of the way, most all of us once we hit a certain age, look at our successors and almost automatically decide that what they’re wearing is most likely too revealing or ridiculous for someone their age. This aside, society has adapted its views in regard to fashion over the years. At one point in time the idea of the bikini was quite scandalous. If you think about it today it still easily could be, because how many women walk around in public in just their bra and underwear? Yet conceptually we have validated the existence of the bikini as we know it, and now we have to look at Abercrombie with its line of padded bikini tops. Normally, we would probably object to this just a bit at least. It plays directly into the constant barrage of marketing that women of all ages, and especially young women, are exposed to. One way or another they are driven to a model image that they have to look like. This adds serious psychological pressure on a group of individuals already at a disadvantage due to the changes their bodies are undergoing. Alas, we tend to just let it go by the wayside and watch as the youth of today struggle through these new challenges as they work to become adults.
Now as you read that, perhaps you were envisioning a certain age group, perhaps 14 and up? Whatever you may have been imagining, I doubt that you realized that the group Abercrombie was targeting went all the way down to 5-7 years old.
Although Abercrombie later stated that they would agree to pull back from this market, it didn’t mean that they wanted to do it. Nor did it mean that they necessarily quit making padded bikini tops for this age demographic; rather, they decreased the amount of padding so that it wouldn’t be quite as pronounced.
This also means that Abercrombie is still selling the original product to girls 8 and above.
What’s the real problem underlying this?
Yes, girls are being pushed on to being “sexy” or “perfect” at a younger age. But what makes it worse is that girls are hitting puberty at purportedly younger ages these years.
Well in some cases, as early as 5 years old; the typical age of a preschooler or kindergartener, and the average age of puberty in girls is now falling closer to 8 years old. This is a change that has progressed throughout the years and experts have found many positive correlations suggesting that certain factors or products have led to this result, such as early obesity. Yet at the same time, there are many potential external factors that could be to blame, although not enough research has been done to determine with certainty if these factors have had the effect of increasing the onset of early puberty.
For girls that do experience puberty at a younger age, you can imagine that it’s a terrifying experience for the girls and parents alike, but even worse is the increased likelihood of social behavioral problems such as depression, sexual frustration/initiation, and substance abuse.
Thus, with the knowledge of these results and looking at the corresponding attempts of Abercrombie in trying to market padded bikinis to even younger girls; Abercrombie is exploiting this new information outright.
This is the end of the first installment of this article. Stay tuned for the second concluding installment which delves into a possible deterrent to such marketing techniques, the further implications of trying to deter such marketing techniques, and a proposed method by which Abercrombie could improve its image regarding this situation.
Thought posed by the author: