Betwixt and be tween: Age ambiguity and the sexualization of the female consuming subject

Daniel Thomas Cook, Susan B. Kaiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


In this article, we argue that what is now known as the 'tween' cannot be understood apart from its inception in, and articulation with, the market exigencies of childhood - specifically girlhood - as they have emerged since the Second World War. Drawing upon trade discourses from the children's clothing industry since the 1940s, interviews with children and views expressed by children's market observers, we demonstrate how 'the tween' (or subteen/preteen) has been constructed and maintained as an ambiguous, age-delineated marketing and merchandising category. This category tends to produce and reproduce a 'female consuming subject' who has generally been presumed to be white, middle or upper middle class and heterosexual. Building upon historical materials, we focus much of our efforts on analyzing contemporary cultural commercial iterations of the tween as they have arisen since the early 1990s, a time when clothing makers and entrepreneurs of childhood redoubled their efforts to define a market semantic space for the Tween on the continuum of age-based goods and meanings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-227
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


  • Children
  • Clothing
  • Consumption
  • Gender
  • Girls
  • Sexuality
  • Tweens


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