Walmart’s geoGirl: Doesn’t Every 8-Year-Old Need to Exfoliate?

While women debate if 50 really is the new 30, with Walmart’s help 8 may be the new 18. On February 21, Walmart launches geoGirl, a line of cosmetic and beauty products specifically formulated for 8- to 12-year-olds.

The line, which boasts a total of 69 (let’s hope that’s coincidental) products, contains everything from eyeshadow, mascara and blush to exfoliator, anti-oxidant treatments and face soap. After all, what 8-year-old doesn’t need to slough off dead skin and elongate her eyelashes?

Don’t be surprised if this is the first time you’re hearing of geoGirl. The story broke last month but received minimal news coverage, probably because the corporate sexualization of young girls has become such standard practice that it’s no longer shocking and, therefore, not all that newsworthy.

Those who did protest geoGirl noted the clear psychological difference between the time-old tradition of playing dressup with mom’s make-up and very young girls owning, “real cosmetics with natural ingredients that will create return purchases and create a true beauty consumer.” Those were the words of Joel Carden, executive V.P. for Pacific World, the company behind geoGirl, who makes no bones about his company’s desire to make money and create consumers as young as possible. However gag-inducing, his statement is at least honest. Of their estimated $2 billion in buying power, tweens spend more than $24 million a year on cosmetics.

Citing any reason beyond the financial is like Sylvester trying to deny he ate Tweety while spitting out yellow feathers, but Walmart’s doing its best. According to company statements, geoGirl was launched in response to parents asking, “I really need to help and educate my child on how to take care of our skin.” One might think a pediatrician would be a better source for questions about a child’s skin care, but Walmart’s the apparent expert now and, as such, decided to lend a helping hand to parents looking for, “a healthier age-appropriate option for their tween girls who ask about wearing make-up.” (Words like no, unnecessary, inappropriate or damaging must never have crossed Walmart execs’ minds.)

Besides coming in recyclable packaging, geoGirl’s products are free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, synthetic colors and fragrances. Considering most kids have no idea what parabens and phthalates even are, Walmart’s marketing strategy is clearly based on winning over their parents. This belies a sad reality: Kids have been so successfully marketed to over the past decade(s) that creating a need–the backbone of any advertising campaign–is no longer necessary. From Bratz to Britney Spears’ thong underwear to Miley Cyrus pole dancing, the desire for girls to be sexy and beautiful (at least by modern American standards) is already assumed.

Once upon a time, this “need” created conflict between tweens demanding to wear make-up and their finger-wagging parents. Not anymore.  Family-friendly Walmart has the perfect solution–make rebellion moot by encouraging parents to do the buying!

And should parents take the it’s-paraben-free! bait, at the end of the day it won’t be just corporations sexualizing girls at younger and younger ages. The parents will be doing it, too.

Photo via Flickr user wmsch_kiwi under Creative Commons 3.0.

Comments

  1. Eye-opening!

    My only disagreement is the last sentence. Parents aren't going to START sexualizing their daughters, they have been for awhile. The racks at an Target, Walmart, Justice, or Limited Too are full of clothing that would have been considered scandalous not 15 years ago. And the dolls? Please.

    That $2 billion of tween buying power isn't from their adorable lemonade stands. It's parents' money and parents ceded control over it & the vulnerability of their girls a long time ago.

    • mamabear says:

      To be fair, the culture of celebrity with unrestrained capitalism happily sexualized our daughters and inured many parents to the process.

      And, only SOME parents ceded control over the vulnerability of thier daughters.

      The rest of us do battle for our kids every day, though fall short when it comes to other girls. I may be able to "boycott" Walmart and its ilk but a lot of people don't have a choice. After a lifetime in that world, tweezing a 6 year old's brows or buying any of the other 60 odd beauty products may not seem so weird.

  2. Just want to add to this post that there's a petition on Change.org regarding GeoGirl.

  3. Encouraging girls to obsess about their looks during the last few years of their childhood doesn't further sexualize them, it also robs them of time. Time girls will now spend perusing and buying, studying magazines, application, removal, comparing themselves to others, is all time that could have gone to play, study, hobbies, helping around the house, time with family, nature, volunteering, things that develop character, intellect, internal resources, important skills. I say moms, band together and say one big, collective NO, not to Walmart, but to your daughters. While I find what they're doing damaging, ultimately t's not Walmar's job to parent our kids, it's ours. True change in our culture where our daughters are concerned will not come until we recognize our power not just as consumers but as parents.

  4. NO WAY! This is totally unacceptable. EIGHT YEAR OLDS wearing make-up? Not mine. I already boycott the devil-store as often as possible. This just gives me even more reason. Not that they are missing my money out of their multi-quadribillion business each year —-but whatever!

  5. I just started wearing make up last year(9th grade) and now Walmart is trying to encourage my 8-year old sister too?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  6. Sheshtyn de Souza says:

    This disgusts me!

  7. I like how they emphasised the “American Model” way of thinking. In western civilization, all women are faced with young, skinny, over-sexualized women who have nothing else on their minds other than to persue men and “be fabulous”. In eastern culture, women do not have as much rights as western women do, but they do respect their women and you would never see pole dancing or children’s thong bikini’s in a children’s show in Sweden for example, I’m sure. Over commercialization targeted towards kids and their parents has got to stop. It’s almost like parents can no longer think for themselves!

  8. sad but true…But this parent has no promble with the world NO and I use it all the time…There is no way that my 8 year old is were make up…..She is going to stay a little girl for a little while longer. So this is what I think all parents should send a mess to walmart and say yeah right I little girl are going to stay are babies a little longer so we are not going to my in to this…

  9. wow….!!! i cannot believe that the parents are buying into this!
    sad sad sad.
    makes me even more embaressed to be american.
    greeaaattt, juuust what i need!

  10. I guess I missed all the hype about it being for little girls. (Sorry) But I like the mascara. My 18th birthday is in a couple weeks and I was wandering in Wal-Mart hoping to get some good “Poorly Dressed” pics for failblog when I stumbled upon it in the make up aisle.

    I’m sorry, but it’s not Wal-Mart’s fault that people can’t properly parent their children anymore (I nanny, I know how some kids act). It’s society’s fault. Parents get a win-win. As George Carlin said, if the kids happens to suck, parents had nothing to do it. If the kid is a success, you hear “That’s my son/daughter! Raised him/her right, I did!”

    Wal-Mart is a terrible company (who I now feel really guilty about buying the geoGirl brand from) with terrible business practices but Wal-Mart isn’t America. The US encourages the behavior.

    If you’re going to get your panties in a knot about anything, worry less about whether your pre-teen wants a lip gloss and worry more about the billions of dollars that the Russian and Mexican crime syndicates make by kidnapping girls 7-12 years of age and selling them as human flesh lights after they smuggle them across the US border. And a lot of the customers demanding pre-pubescent virgins? Us. The proud citizens of the United States of America. Quit fretting over lipstick and start looking at REAL PROBLEMS!

  11. Raechel says:

    Parents also have a choice to expose their children and let them wear makeup. You don’t need to take it out on the makeup company. It is your decision whether to let your children wear makeup or not. It is NOT the makeup companies fault.

  12. Do you wear makeup? You may well not, but let’s pretend you’re the average adult woman, trying to get by in the workforce or the educational system. If that’s the case, then yes, you wear makeup.

    Why do you do that? Do you pencil on eyeliner in the morning solely in the hopes of attracting a sexual partner that subscribes to media-promoted notions of beauty at some point during the day? If not, then I think it’s safe to say there’s a bit more going on here than simply “sexualization”.

    The image of a woman that is given the most respect in today’s society is one that wears makeup. Yes, that is inherently sexist. It’s also true. The closer you look to a slim, white, dewy-skinned fashion model, the better you can expect to be treated by others and the more others will encourage you to be better to yourself. The more effort you put into perfecting your makeup regimen, the closer you will look to that ideal. It may be terrible, but these are the rules as they stand. If you’re a feminist who wears makeup, chances are that this is why you do so.

    Why does this matter? Because *the rules aren’t different when you’re 8 years old*. In fact, there is a whole other set of rules that operates in conjunction with the previous set. See, young people don’t tend to get a lot of respect. The younger you are, the less people will listen to and take your expressed wishes into account, the less rights you will be afforded in your home and at school, and the less you will be seen as fit to participate in adult society. Actually, scratch that. That should read “the younger you *look*”. Even if you only appear to be older, you will suddenly find yourself being treated more like a human and less like a pet. See where I’m going here?

    Underage girls live their lives in the intersection of sexism and ageism. They are not only told they must look and act a certain way because they are female; they are also silenced and segregated because they are young.

    Just as your average career woman wears makeup because those 10 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning are an insurance policy against all the little microaggressions that will be directed at her throughout the day if she eschews them, an underage girl stands to benefit from wearing makeup. Not only will makeup make her appear closer to the popular feminine beauty ideal (and thus up her rank in the appearance-based caste system that all 8-year-olds with a typical amount of media exposure have long since internalized) but it will make her appear older, and thus more worthy of respect, inclusion, and the basic human rights that youth are so frequently denied.

    It is easy to respond to reports like this by bemoaning the state of a society in which vulturous corporations prey on the innocence of young girls just to make a profit. And maybe that’s accurate. The fact is, though, that you could switch that prey to “the insecurities of women” without making the statement any less true. To stop your analysis there is to completely miss the point.

    Of course, as I wrote above, there are valid reasons other than personal insecurity for an adult woman to wear makeup. There are also valid reasons other than childish ignorance for an underage girl to wear makeup.

    It would be injust and ineffective to prevent adult women from wearing makeup under the guise of improving their senses of self esteem. To do so would only hinder them personally, not address the societal structures that punish them for presenting their bare faces to the world. To wish this same restriction imposed on underage girls depends on the belief that they are unaffected by these structures. To accept this stereotype of youth as uniformly accepting of each other and happy with their roles as “children” is grossly inaccurate and actively harmful.

    So, why is the case of “tweens demanding to wear make-up” but being denied by “their finger-wagging parents” so common as to be taken as a matter of course?

    I’ll give you a hint: it’s not about boys.

    It’s about you.

  13. Hi, I’m a fifth grader who lives in a small suburb of chicago. I myself don’t wear makeup but a lot of my friends do. Some of them are dating and have been for at least a year. I find that mostly those girls just want to look good for their boyfriends.

    That’s my opinion.

  14. Ok not that I agree with geogirl but I think they have a good idea. Well if you are 11-15 you want to start warring makeup duh and Walmart is probably a place to go. And if what they clame is true that this brand of makeup is good for your skin then why not… But 8-10 ummm I think no ok! In the world we live in not it’s all about the way we look but if you think about it if we didn’t care so much that little bump in the road we hit we could smoth it over. So if you stop caring about the way you look all your friends would do the same. ( in a saying 1 000 000 starts with 1)

  15. Melanie says:

    Yeah, I think the company really should just market this makeup to people with sensitive skin and eschew the whole ‘girl’ angle. Although I do remember as a teen wanting “Jane” makeup because I read Sassy/Jane magazine (my first introduction to feminism).

    Some people like makeup. Boys, Girls, Genderqueer, trans, gay, straight, whatever. Some people enjoy it. It’s painting using the face as a canvas. Once you take all the wind out of the sails of those using it to ‘oppress’ by stating what it is…then it’s good.

    I personally don’t encourage my 6 year old to wear makeup, but I let her ‘play’ with my lip gloss and glitters. It doesn’t mean I am giving into patriarchy. It means I like color and texture. I wear fun clothes too, for the same reason.

    No one ‘needs’ makeup, but if they want to wear it, then good for them. If they don’t, well…good for them, too.

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