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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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3. Girls just wanna have fun



Girls just wanna have fun

Feminist responses to the Spice Girls depended on whether their activities were perceived as self-regulating or whether they had been manipulated into acting out a marketing concept. In a millennial society alas, you can’t have one without the other.

—GREER 1999, 26

For young suburban girls like myself growing up in the 1980s was fun. Cyndi Lauper and Madonna dominated the airwaves and their kooky, whimsical fashions dominated our closets and our toy boxes were glittery, sparkly and smelled like fruit as Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch Kids provided hours of play. But this decade was about more than simply being fun. It was a decade that began to open up new spaces for girls’ consumerism as various sectors of the marketplace, particularly the advertising industry, the toy industry and the music industry, began to acknowledge the girl and find ways to address her as a unique market niche. Prior to the 1980s the girl was mostly overshadowed by her brother. He had television shows geared to his tastes, he was courted by the music industry as a legitimate music fan and he was the focus of most of the innovations in the toy industry. With the exception of the magazine and book industries the girl consumer had few cultural texts created specifically for her. But things changed in the 1980s as the girl became welcome within the complex circuitry of the...

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