For many parents, their daughters' middle school years can turn into a stalemate over makeup. Tween girls see how much pop stars rely on makeup to achieve their image and may want to emulate their idols. They also see their mothers put on makeup to go out, which conveys to them that using makeup magically turns you into a mature adult (at least, that’s what my 11-year-old self thought). On the other hand, parents don't want to see their girls grow up too fast or painted up like a circus clown, and so they try and stave off the moment when their daughter reaches for an eyeshadow palette.
For many years, girls who wanted to experiment with makeup had to sneak some of their mother's products out of the bathroom cabinets. Now Wal-Mart is making it much easier for tweens to get all dolled up by introducing a line of makeup marketed specifically to elementary and middle-school girls. Wal-Mart claims these products will help parents educate their girls about skin care, but many parents are afraid that this will make it even harder to convince girls to keep their skin looking natural. Others worry that makeup is a way to sexualize girls.
I’m not so much worried about tarting-up girls, or about epic parental battles. For many girls, wearing ridiculous amounts of over-pigmented makeup is something to look back on and laugh. I remember sitting next to a girl in my sixth grade math class who had coated her eyelids in teal powder and thought she looked spectacular. I felt the same way about the mole I decided to draw on my cheek with a colored pencil.
But this is Wal-Mart we're talking about, a corporation that would probably murder half its shareholders if it meant driving up sales by a few percentage points. Wal-Mart has found a previously untapped market and is using the power of marketing to suggest that even young girls need to spend money in order to look presentable. Every day women are bombarded with messages that looking good takes a lot of money, and it’s a shame that girls are now being told the same thing.
- Miriam Musco
Girl Museum Inc.