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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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2. “Discovering” the tween



“Discovering” the tween

Move over baby boomers. After courting you for 40 years, marketers and advertisers have now turned their attention to a powerful new group of consumers—your kids.

—STEINBERG 1998, 58

In grade five I was allowed to go to the mall without my parents. I would meet up with my friends and together we would make our way to Upper Canada Mall on the bus. We would scour the mall, our meagre allowances burning holes in our pockets. We would buy the latest teen magazines; plan future clothing purchases when we came back with our mothers; and, often after a trip to the food court, peruse the toy store for the latest gizmos. I loved all of these excursions. It was freeing to be in a public space without my parents. I felt empowered (and cool). But there was more to this than my own personal freedom. The hidden story behind these mall excursions is that retailers, designers and merchandisers were beginning to notice us. Little did my friends and I know at the time that we were participating in a dramatic deepening of the commercialization of youth culture. We were not exactly experiencing a new frontier. As our parents could tell us, the youth market had been colonized by market forces long before the 1980s. However, the 1980s were a period of intense commodification and increasing segmentation of the youth market as young people were targeted...

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