Sunday, October 1, 2023

Childhood? Vaping Tweens and Teens in Crop Tops, Thongs and Makeup

The kicker for "Being 13", Jessica Bennett's New York Times post (Sept. 20, 2023), serves as a good synopsis of the piece:

Three girls, one year. This is what it’s like to be 13 today, in a world that can’t stop talking about the dire state of your future.

One of the girls Bennett profiled was Anna - a 13-year-old 8th grader at a top-ranked charter school in Colorado. 

Anna reminded us of Mare of HBO's Mare of Easttown. After Mare discovered that Erin, a teen, had a secret account on Sidedoor's escort service, Mare said, "Trust me. Teenage girls are fucking sneaky."

In terms of sneaky teens, after Anna complained to her mom, via text, about being the only member of her 8th grade friend group who wasn't allowed to wear thongs and crop tops, Anna: 

"[...] went to Victoria’s Secret with her friends and bought the [thong] underwear anyway, then hid them in her room."

(In addition, Bennett shared that Anna's parents had discovered, via Anna's iPhone, that 13-year-old Anna had been sneaking to her boyfriend's house, conveniently, when his parents weren't home, which reminded me of 17-year-old Lily of HBO's And Just Like That whom lost her virginity in her boyfriend's house, conveniently, when his parents weren't home.)

In terms of tweens in crop tops, Anna’s mother may not condone it, but 11-year-old Maxwell’s mother, Jessica Simpson, condones it; however, some of Simpson’s followers condemned Maxwell’s crop top. 

Leah Bitsky reported for Page Six that “Jessica Simpson [was] slammed for letting 11-year-old daughter, Maxwell, wear crop top” (August 28, 2023)

Bitsky reported that after Simpson posted pictures on Instagram of 11-year-old Maxwell posing seductively (i.e., tongue out) in a crop top, one of Simpon’s followers posted: “Isn’t she like 11 or something?? Stop sexualizing your little girl” But Bitsky related that another follower defended Maxwell’s tween crop top by posting: “So many Karens here geez! No 11 year old looks like an 11 yr old today. We’re not in the Brady Bunch years anymore, she looks fine [...]!” 

Yet, none of Simpson’s followers addressed designers like Marc Jacobs whom designed crop tops for tweens and teens. For example, we posted that Brooke Frischer posted on Fashionista that "Heaven [by Marc Jacobs] and Bluemarine Made the High School Movie Wardrobe of Your Dreams a Reality" (JUL 7, 2023).

Per Frischer, Blumarine by Marc Jacobs features 11 of the brands best-selling pieces, which boast the brands "signature touches". The best-selling signature pieces consist of ultra-mini skirts, and they mean ultra, lacy pink camisoles, baby tees, and they mean baby, and cropped sweatshirts - among other revealing pieces. 

In terms of thongs, we wrote in our substack “From the 1939 World's Fair to TikTok: A History of Teen Thongs” that Ariel Levy wrote in Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Free Press, 2005) that the thong was invented in New York City to "cover" exotic dancers during the 1939 World's Fair but that thongs are no longer relegated to exotic dancers but that thongs, like Hello Kitty and Abercrombie & Fitch, have become the "underpants of choice" for nymphets:

Now they are the underpants of choice for pubescent girls. I saw Hello Kitty thongs for sale at the mall; Abercrombie & Fitch—which markets to seven- to fourteen-year-olds—makes a thong that says WINK WINK and another that declares EYE CANDY; the teen chain store Hot Topic sells a Cat in the Hat thong; Delia’s has a little cotton thong with Bart Simpson on the front and another that asks FEELING LUCKY? with a green four-leaf clover stamped on the crotch. The urban youth Web site Dr. Jay’s has rhinestone Playboy bunny thongs with matching camisoles. 

In addition, we related that there’s a plethora of dancing teens in (cheeky) thongs on TikTok; thus, it should not be surprising that Anna was the only 8th grader in her friend group who didn’t wear thongs. 

And while we’re on the topic of tweens in crop tops and thongs, it’s worth re-mentioning Rachel Brown’s post on Beauty Independent that “Evereden Is Positioning Itself To Lead The Race For Gen Alpha Consumers” (September 12, 2023) In other words, Evereden is selling makeup to 13-and-under-year-olds. And it states in the piece’s kicker that Evereden is: “[...] encouraging gen alpha consumers to play with beauty products [...]” 

EverEden: Kids

And why is Evereden selling makeup, like Ruby Red Lip Oil, to 13-year-olds? It’s for the same reason that Marc Jacobs is designing crop tops to teens and Abercrombie & Fitch was selling thongs to tweens. #money And notice that the brown tween in the Evereden advertisement (above) is dressed, à la Blumarine by Marc Jacobs, in a crop top and mini skirt.

Lastly, if adults wear crop tops, thongs and makeup, one should not be surprised to see tweens and teens in crop tops, thongs and makeup, because as Neil Postman reminded in The Disappearance of Childhood (Vintage/Random House, 1994), as recently as two hundred years ago, the concept of childhood did not exist and that it originated during the Renaissance with the invention of the printing press, which initiated a separation between children and adults with the bridge from childhood to adulthood being only crossed by learning how to read. 

In addition, Jennifer Senior related in her piece "Little Grown-ups and Their Progeny" (April 8, 2013), which was part of the New York magazine cover story "Childhood in New York", that up until the end of the WWII, children were expected to contribute to the family financially. Particular to New York City, newsboys were rampant, but delivering newspapers wasn’t their only source of income. They: “[…] blacked boots, scavenged for junk, and shuttled messages and goods.” But: “[...] child poverty, child abuse, and exploitative labor practices […]” lead to an effort by reformers and the government (e.g. Children’s Bureau) to protect children.

However, Steven Mintz, the author of Huck’s Raft: A History of Childhood in America (Belknap Press\Harvard University Press, 2006), wrote that, “They [reformers and the government] viewed kids smoking at 10 and 12 and having independent money and walking into bars as the worst thing in the world. It reminds you that "child" is a label, not a reality."

And just like Postman related in The Disappearance of Childhood, things have gone full circle. The separation that resulted from the printing press and the Children’s Bureau has been seemingly removed by smartphones and social media. Consequently, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a 13-year-old nymphet in a crop top and micro mini skirt that barely covers her thong with a vape between her Ruby Red lips.  

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