Have your preteen's looks suffered with age? GeoGirl can erase her wrinkles in time for that last year of grammar school!
Alarming but true: the geoGirl makeup company from Wal-Mart (of course*) debuts February 21. Advertised for eight-to-twelve year olds, geoGirl incorporates all-natural "anti-aging components [...] like willow bark to exfoliate and chamomile to calm, as well as anti-oxidants, which reportedly prevent aging," according to the creator. Well, reportedly willow bark will not prevent me from declaring geoGirl utterly douche-y.
Can you pick the wrong-headed exfoliator out of this lineup?
First of all, makeup specifically for preteens is a troubling concept. Let's just get that out there. While youngsters from adventurous to insecure may seek out cosmetics, there's a difference between playing dress up and being made to feel as if makeup is, and should be, a necessity through age-targeted products. Children learn from playtime as well as academics, y'know. While many toys are gender-regressive, I'd rather a girl have the imaginative possibilities of a Barbie than a plaything based solely around "improving" her appearance and the further sexualization of youth. I bet M. Gigi Durham would have a few comments. (Also, the products are named for "texting lingo," nudging towards an whole different can of problematic worms.)
Any fan of the Olsen twins or Hello Kitty can tell you tween-geared makeup isn't quite new, but geoGirl has the bizarre distinction of being the first in the smarmy posse to push anti-aging products. Anti-aging is a thriving industry based on the falsehood that age is shameful and true beauty lies in keeping one's body as young as possible, making perpetual youth the ultimate goal. Therefore, geoGirl intimates that even eight-year-olds should be worried about appearing unattractively "old," a message with still more potential to erode self-esteem in young women. (It's also a strange choice, as some commenters have noted, considering that many children want to look and be older, and this is arguably much of the appeal of cosmetics in the first place.)
Smelling controversy, supporters of geoGirl are preemptively defensive and evasive. A Wall Street Journal article titled "It's Just Lip Gloss, Mom" fails to mention the anti-aging angle entirely and focuses on natural curiosity about makeup, captioning the following picture "An 8-year-old easily puts on her own lip gloss:"
You know what else looks "natural?" NOT wearing makeup.
Preying on the insecurities of young girls for not being the right degree of mature, polished or sexy is no new act either. What I find especially repellent about this doucheline, though, is the way it pushes its supposed environmental friendliness like a bargaining chip. Problematic companies seem even more offensive when they're blatantly reaching for the support of progressives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is serious doubt about whether the line will have a "green" effect at all. Partially recyclable packaging does not an eco-hero make, and yet the same pieces that tiptoe around geoGirl's anti-aging take care to mention Wal-Mart VP Carmen Bauza's devotion to "beauty care in a responsible way." She goes on to call the cosmetics "a great learning experience for us to determine how to communicate with this generation."
How can we communicate that these are recyclable? I know! We'll model them after toilet paper rolls!
Oh, Carmen. Claiming that adults need makeup to connect with young girls is condescending and disturbing. There are better ways to teach children (of all genders!) about recycling, even if we follow your example in not just, you know, talking about it...
So, bravo, geoGirl: you may never be the top-selling tween makeup brand, but you've already won one award. I officially bestow this Douchebag Decree onto your child-sexualizing, Wal-Marty, faux-liberal heads. If we really want them, there are less douchetastic green cosmetics out there.
*I chose this article as a reference because it also relates to the sexualization of young girls, but if you're looking for more about the not-so-savory history of Wal-Mart, this page is a good place to start.
Wal-Mart to sell anti-aging make-up to eight-year-olds [ABC]
It's Just Lip Gloss, Mom: Marketers Work to Take The Rebellion Out of Makeup for Preteens [Wall Street Journal]
Walmart Plans to Sell Anti-Aging Makeup to Tweens [Womanist Musings]
Doesn't Every 8-Year-Old Need to Exfoliate? [Ms]
Walmart, Pacific World give sneak peek of GeoGirl [Drug Store News]
Preteen Eco-Friendly Makeup Actually Destroys Our World [Campus Progress]