Oh, Walmart. Every time I think I've finally heard it all from you, you just find another way to make me shake my head and say, "This isn't right. This can't be real. What is wrong with this country?"
The latest, in case you haven't already heard, is that later this month, Walmart is launching the 'geoGirl' line of cosmetics, aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds. Now, I'm not wild about make-up for that age group, anyway, but here's where Walmart is willing to go that extra mile to make sure I end up completely ashamed to be American: The geoGirl line includes products noted for their anti-aging properties!
What's Walmart's role here?
The retailing giant will be carrying the geoGirl line, which it says "was developed in partnership with our customers to give parents a healthier, age-appropriate option for their tween girls who ask about wearing makeup."
Where does the "anti-aging" part come in?
The line's creators claim it's formulated for fresh young skin, with ingredients like willow bark to exfoliate and chamomile to calm, as well as anti-oxidants, which reportedly prevent aging.
There's so many things here that make me want to weep, I barely know where to begin. First, I have a 12-year-old daughter -- the upper end of geoGirl's target demographic -- and in our house we consider a little lip gloss to be the extent of age-appropriate makeup at this age. I'm an old fuddy duddy, I know, but even overlooking the fact that her middle school is overrun by girls who believe "more is more," particularly when it comes to eyeliner (yikes), I've yet to see a kid roaming the halls there where I've thought to myself, "Hmmm. She could be really pretty, if not for all the fine lines and wrinkles, y'know?"
Basically, you show me an 8- or 12-year-old who needs anti-aging makeup, and I'll show you this fantastic bridge I have for sale, cheap.
Non-Toxic Kids is calling for a boycott, not just because of the message being sent, but because of the product ingredients themselves:
Geo-Girl is supposedly an eco-friendly line of cosmetics, but I would like to see the ingredient list and ratings by the Environmental Working Group to be sure ... I'm disappointed, although not surprised, by this move by Walmart. They stand to make millions of dollars selling products to this vulnerable age group, who will learn that our society values their looks above all.
Over at No More Dirty Looks, Alexandra is hardly a fan, but poses this counterpoint, wondering if at least geoGirl's ingredients will be less harmful than the comparable "adult" products:
But then, here’s the thing: When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than putting on a full face of makeup, spraying my self-cut bangs into an 80s tease, gluing on some Lee Press-On Nails, and pretending to be a grown-up. I cringe to think of the chemicals, but that sort of adult imitation is kind of par for the course, no?
Triple Pundit's Andrea Newell points out that this supposedly "eco-friendly" product line is an oxymoron even just from an environmental standpoint:
Encouraging repeat sales of an essentially unnecessary product for this age range, eco-friendly packaging or not, is still environmentally unfriendly. All those used up tubes and jars have to go somewhere. During this past holiday season much ado was made about not buying in excess and not buying unneeded products. Although Geo Girl will sell in the $3.99 to $5.99 range, cosmetics for tweens could be seen as an extraneous line item in the household budget.
Furthermore, Newell makes what I think is the most salient argument against this concept as a whole:
Promoting “beauty care” to tweens says that 8- to 12-year-old girls are not attractive without looking sexy. Tampa dermatologist Dr. Seth Forman has spoken out against the line claiming that it not only focuses on superficial looks at a crucial age, but the skin care products themselves could harm young skin. Psychiatrist Dr. Henry Paul cautions that the use of makeup can sometimes be addictive, resulting in girls who are addicted to being “beautiful” and don’t see themselves as anything else which can lead to an erosion of self-esteem in the long run.
If you have kids, do you (or will you) let your tweens wear makeup? Do you think this is all harmless fun and people like me who are horrified are just overreacting? Or is it time for Walmart to realize that just because there's a market for over-sexualizing our kids, doesn't mean they have to keep exploiting it (over and over)?
BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin remembers when kids were actually allowed to be kids. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.
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