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Tweening the Girl

The Crystallization of the Tween Market


Natalie Coulter

Tweening the Girl challenges the argument that the tween market began in the mid-1990s. It was actually during the 1980s that young girls were given the label «tweens» and were heralded by marketers, and subsequently the news media, as one of «capitalism’s most valuable customers». Tweening the Girl expertly traces the emergence of the tween during this era as she slowly became known to the consumer marketplace as a lucrative customer, market, and audience. It clearly illustrates how «tweenhood», which is often assumed to be a natural category of childhood, is actually a product of the industries of the youth media marketplace, which began to position the preteen girl as a separate market niche carved out of the transitory space between childhood and adolescence. Relying predominantly upon a textual analysis of trade publications from the 1980s and early 1990s, the book eloquently maps out the synergistic processes of the marketing, advertising, merchandising, and media industries as they slowly began to take interest in the girl and began to define her as a tween: an empowered female consumer who is no longer a child but not quite a teen.
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1. Introduction




On July 8 1996, the Spice Girls released ‘Wannabe’ and with it a new pre-teen generation was born.

—RICE, 2000

In the summer of 2012, I like virtually everyone else in the world was glued to the TV watching the closing ceremonies of the London Games. For weeks leading up to the ceremonies there were rumours of a Spice Girls reunion. The energy of the crowd in anticipation of the Girls was palpable even from my couch in my little living room half the globe away from London. True to form, when the Spice Girls did appear, rolling into the stage stadium precariously perched atop bejewelled London taxi- cabs, they brought the house down. I have always had a mixed reaction to the Spice Girls. When I had first learnt about the Spice Girls in the mid-1990s, my response was utter indignation. I mean who were these garishly clad women dancing around in sequin micro-minis and platform boots calling out to us to “Spice up [our] life”? My indignation was pushed even further when I found out that they had these ridiculously insipid stage names, like Posh Spice, Scary Spice and, even worse, Baby Spice. Nevertheless, once I became familiar with them, their anthem of Girl Power piqued my feminist sensibilities. Rarely had I heard such an overt declaration for equality. And there was a third response. While wrestling with my conflicted views, I could not help but smile...

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