The Common Good

On Victoria's Secret: Speaking Up for Our Daughters

I never knew how scary the world could be until I became a parent. When I was single or just married, the world was my playground and I had free reign in it. But something happens when you become a parent — the world becomes a place where germs and sharp objects lay. You spend the majority of your time preparing for the coming of your first child by reading books about parenting, “baby proofing” your house, and ensuring that everything that could possibly injure or harm them or get possibly broken is moved to a safe location. That moment when you bring your child home, there is this sense of obligation and duty to safeguard this little human against the ills of the world.

Preteen girls, Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com
Preteen girls, Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

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I have two children — a daughter who is 3 and a son who is 1.

When my daughter turned 3-years-old, my wife and I began to have conversations about the next milestone in our daughter’s life: school. While it’s still a couple of years away, I was already thinking of how the past three years had flown by, and she would be skipping off to kindergarten before I knew it.

That thought was on my mind when my colleague and fellow Disciples of Christ minister, Rev. Cory G., posted an article about Victoria’s Secret’s Spring Break advertising campaign; the article claimed that the underwear giant was targeting a younger demographic in pretty explicit ways. At first I did not believe it. I did some research and found some other articles from USA Today and Businessweek that were also calling out Victoria’s Secret and their “Bright Young Things” campaign. I was shocked and mad. I believed that this was another attempt to oversexualize young women in this country. Victoria’s Secret (as well as other companies) set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

I was appalled by the statement made by the CFO of Limited Brands, the company that owns Victoria’s Secret, PINK, Bath and Body Works, and many others. He stated, “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”

Does this sound like a company that is NOT aiming toward a younger demographic?

I began to think about the things I would want to tell my 3-year-old daughter when she was faced with the difficult situations of adolescence. I did not want her hardest decision to be whether someone would like or accept her by the underwear she was wearing. Shouldn’t our adolescents be faced with different struggles? How can we empower them to do great things?

My daughter’s first three years of life went by so quickly, and I wanted her to be a little girl as long as possible; I didn’t want her to grow up too fast or even feel like she had to.

So I put digital pen to digital paper and composed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret and posted it on my website on March 22. I wanted them to know that as a dad, I did not want my daughter to be targeted. I didn’t want her to be seen as a “thing” and that their campaign was wildly inappropriate. The line “Bright Young Things” promoted included thongs with “Call Me” on the front and hipsters with “Feeling Lucky?” on them. This did not sit right with me; I believed that Victoria’s Secret was putting profits above girls’ self-esteem, self-pride, and self-worth. I wanted my voice to be heard even though I had no idea if they would even listen. I wanted to share my feelings with other parents and maybe we could ban together and take a stand for young girls and women everywhere. I wrote these words:

I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence. Decisions like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? Do I want to go to Texas A&M or University of Texas or some Ivy League School? Should I raise awareness for slave trafficking or lack of water in developing nations? There are many, many more questions that all young women should be asking themselves… not will a boy (or girl) like me if I wear a “call me” thong?

What happened next was shocking.

After a month, the letter had been read 3.75 million times on my website alone. I have received hundreds of emails, Facebook messages, and Tweets from all around the world. I have been interviewed by local TV stations, radio shows from around the country, HLN (Headline News), and CNN. The letter was used in high school classrooms in the U.S. and Canada and in a business ethics class at Troy University. Parents have written me to thank me for standing up for our children.

What has made this entire experience special is receiving emails from single dads telling me they are going to use the letter as a jumping off point to have a conversation with their teenage daughters. It’s great when a father can express his feelings and concern to his daughter about the way advertisers are targeting a younger demographic. Receiving millions of hits is great, but empowering a father, giving a voice to a dad who is trying to raise children in the 21st century makes it all worth it.

Through all of this I have been shocked and humbled.

I have been amazed of the outpouring of support for people from all walks of life. Numerous people have contacted me and simply say “thank you for standing up for our children.” One thing that I have learned through this is that we all have the ability to stand up for what we believe in. The problem that many people have expressed to me that they believed no one would listen.

We all have the potential to speak out for what we believe in and for what we want to stand for. While I might be one person, I sent a message; I spoke up for my daughter and every other young girl.

The power of the voice should not be underestimated even if you believe that you might be the only one speaking. Let us ban together to use our voice as a force of change and justice. Sign the petition now to tell Victoria's Secret to stop objectifying young girls!

Original Letter Post 

Rev. Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He is married to his high school sweetheart and has two children ages 3 and 1. He currently serves in Houston, Texas. He also blogs for Houston BeliefGood Men Project, and Radical Parents. For more information about Evan visit www.evandolive.com or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Image: Preteen girls, Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

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