Category Archives: Tweens

Mind the GAP

Sexualisation is on the political agenda, and has always been on ours. At Pinkstinks we are currently working on our submission to the consultation of the government’s sexualisation taskforce (The Bailey Review), set up in response to the growing discontent amongst parents at the much publicised premature sexualisation of our children.

There have been a number of high profile cases which have been the catalyst for all of this: I’m thinking pole dancing kits in Tesco, playboy pencil cases in WH Smith and of course padded bras for seven year olds in Primark. Pinkstinks however has always taken a broader view as we believe that there are some very blurred lines between what are considered sexualised, and what are overtly ‘gendered’ or pinkified products.

Just today the latest website from the Gap was brought to our attention and deserves some thought.

The girls page features the ‘make a shape’ logo, including a young girl, I’m guessing about 7 or 8, standing on tippy toes – as if in heels although actually in flats – looking behind herself at her own behind. All skinny jeaned and skinny, it’s the ‘shape’ of ‘does my bum look big in this?’, ‘am I pretty enough?,’ ‘am I thin enough?’, ‘how do I look?’.

The 'shape' of things to come

And it’s evidence of the trend to use language (visual language as well as written), to describe young girls in the way that was once the preserve of women’s bodies, and women’s fashion. It creates the whisper of self doubt, the hint of concern, the merest smidging of ‘am I good enough?’, and of course added to all the other messages around her, it quickly becomes part of the cause of the suppression of her self-confidence and the shaping of her as a consumer.

So in some ways, whilst we’re all busy shouting loudly about padded bikinis for seven year olds, this stuff, this steady drip feeding of messages, loaded with double meanings for not only our girls but our boys too, quietly continues to further cement some truly dreadful assumptions about what is important for a girl to think and believe, and likewise, a boy too.

Moving - Not posing.

Incidentally, the ‘shapes’ that the equivalent boy is making on the site, is a sort of dancing, running, active moving kind of pose. It is clearly not, however, ‘posing’.

So this is the sort of messaging that we will be highlighting and challenging in our forthcoming submission.

You too can fill in your own submission at:

Please do share with us your own thoughts and ideas.


What is wrong with this picture? A young girl (age indeterminable – but under 18) steps out on to the red carpet. As the flashbulbs of the waiting paparazzi fire up into a strobe-like frenzy, this little girl, short-skirted, glittering and fully made-up, totters up the steps to the event entrance in the ill-fitting skyscraper heels bought especially for this moment. She smiles coyly and waves at the photographers before disappearing inside. “So this is what it’s like to be famous,” she thinks.

So is there anything wrong with this picture? I think so. Because this girl is not famous. She is not Miley Cyrus or Rihanna at an award ceremony or charity gala. She is not an actress or musician or writer or scientist or sportswoman. She is just a girl who thinks it would be cool to be famous. A girl who knows nothing of the reality of becoming famous, of the work it takes to get there and the talent that is (or certainly used to be) required.

This little girl could be, for example, a visitor to an event being run by a set-up called U4U ( at London’s NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, appropriately and ridiculously called GIRLATION. The good people at U4U say this seemingly pointless and shallow event is a ‘funky, fun & interactive conference for young ladies’. Girlation will ‘educate, inform and inspire’ and here’s how…

STAR TREATMENT – Your 11-18 year olds will be EDUCATED in the mysterious ways of the red carpet. Er, they will be faced with imitation paparazzi and a hot pink (natch) carpet at the entrance

FREE PAMPERING – The girls will INFORMED about the necessity to look good at all times by being able to experience massages, manicures and, of course, the ubiquitous makeovers

TEMPTING INDULGENCES – Your daughters can then be INSPIRED to spend their money in booths stuffed full of cupcakes and chocolates. Those watching their figures can splash the cash at the branded fashion concessions.

And we are promised EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES. What might these be? Er, a high heel boot camp? Apparently it explores positive development. Come again? Is aspiring to be able to walk in high heels a positive thing? Should it even be an aspiration at all? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND ARE THEY MAD?!

Well according to the website, which it has to be said is very light on detail, U4U ‘supports young ladies in becoming good citizens today and positive leaders tomorrow through weekly meetings, activities, mentoring, professional coaching & small business projects’.

Sadly there is no more information on who these people are, where these meetings are held and/or what qualifications they have to be running youth groups – if indeed they are.

Suspicious? Yes, a tad. Especially as their unvalidated and outrageous claims continue:

* society values the attributes of U4U members

* university admissions will recognise them as assets to their programs

* employers will have confidence in their leadership, resourcefulness & professional skills

* government organisations will recognise & reward U4U members as positive contributors

* parents discover a solution that meets their daughters [sic] needs: offering support they might not be able to give; helping their daughters navigate through the difficult teenage years; connecting their daughter with good friends & facilitating good choices

Er, never heard of them. Sorry. No words in English are more brilliantly self-explanatory than synonyms for lack of meaning and substance. When I visit the U4U website and read about all the ‘wonderfulness’ that GIRLATION will offer, these are the words which run through my mind. I find myself thinking of gems such as absurdity; inanity and gibberish. Balderdash; tommyrot and drivel. What about blether; blather and blah-blah, not forgetting flapdoodle; flimflam and poppycock. But the claims being made about this event are far more than simple twaddle. It is insidious and cynical; exploitative and dishonest. Shame on the Natural History Museum. Shame on U4U.

Lucy Lawrence

Dora – loses her way

A sillouhette of the new Dora

A sillouhette of the new Dora

So, the thing that is bugging me most, and thanks to shaping-youth for blogging about this too, and getting PinkStinks all cross.

Let’s imagine our lives. Let’s remember when we were young. I do, I wanted to be a vet. Lots of kids do … lots of girls do I think. Then I kind of got put off, because I realised you needed to be good at sciences, and things like that, oh, and 7 years at university … well … then I decided that as I was good at drawing, I’d do graphics … so I did, then … well. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. But something that absolutely DID not happen to me, on my journey, was that I was NEVER ever, a tween.
If I was a kid now though … there’d be no escaping it.
I think it’s meant to be between the ages of 8, to about 12 … those ruthless marketeers would know the precise age range, and it’s here that our girls truly start to be bombarded with messages, about what it is to be a girl, what they need to look like, own, which kind of girl they’ll be, all cleverly disguised as ‘choice’ but really, a whole heap of marketing opportunities  and top wedge to be made.
Here’s the Wiki – on ‘Tween’
Tween is an American neologism and marketing term[6] for preteen. A blend of between and teen,[4][5] “tween” in this context is generally considered to cover the age range from eight to twelve years.[5]
Tween seems sometimes to be used in such a way as to suggest it’s some sort of scientific theory (or fact) … but I think it came from the same science as pentapeptides, and lipopeptides and all those other mysterious peptide cousins
There’s tons of great stuff about ‘tweens’ in the book Consumer Kids: How big business is grooming our children for profit. By Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn.  
So, what’s Dora got to do with this? Well, Dora is going tween, later this year. And you have to ask yourself: “my God, WHY?”  She’s by no means perfect, she’s had some princess moments, her merchandising often betrays who she really is. However, most of the time, she’s climbing mountains, reading maps, navigating rivers, teaching us spanish and just plain old exploring. But her journey has been sabotaged, by the evil marketeers, who want to take away the dreams of girls, and turn them into nightmares. Dora, allegedly might still be solving a few mysteries, but only on her way to the mall. She’s gone and grown-up hasn’t she … and guess what, when girls grow up, they don’t want to explore and discover anymore, unless it’s new nail polish, or some great accessories or, or, well: go take a look on your highstreet. There’s plenty of ‘choice’.
I bet you, yes I do, that once she’s ‘tweened’, we’ll be informed promptly of the educational learning value of the the new Dora, of how she is encouraging creativity in girls, and helping them ‘belong’. This is a common tactic used by websites. ‘Parents, fear not, it’s in the interests of our girls, that Dora becomes fashionista. Honest.’ Good grief. Give us a break would you. We just don’t buy it. (Forgive the pun.)
David Attenborough has been making fantastic new programmes, about amazing events in nature airing on the BBC at the moment. My son (aged 6) LOVES them. Tonight, as usual, all amazing, moving stuff. It struck me … Dora would have loved it. Well, until she got tweened that is. Now she’d be more interested in which cropped top goes with which denim skirt. Not what she’ll need in her backpack, and where has that pesky map gone to?
We await her arrival with baited breathe, but let’s just say, tweening ain’t our backpack.
Hardy Girls Healthy Women in the States are starting a campaign to ‘Save Dora’ – The  Let’s Go: No Makeover campaign, 
You can sign their petition HERE
Here’s a short excerpt from the petition outline page:
That’s why we’re sending this letter to Mattel and Nickelodeon! Join us for Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora. Help us tell the execs at Mattel and Nickelodeon to “Let GO” of Dora. Either let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child!

Sign onto the letter below and we’ll add your name to the list of concerned parents, activists, educators, and girls who refuse to stand aside while yet another girlhood icon becomes the victim of marketers’ schemes: 
We support the campaign whole-heartedly. 


This is apparently the Dora behind the sillouhette

This is apparently the Dora behind the sillouhette