By now you probably have heard of the controversy over Thylane Loubry Blondeau, a 10 year old model who recently “graced” the pages of Vogue Paris. An absolutely beautiful girl, made up to look much older, to sell clothes to adult women. Make sense?
As a parent of a girl & a child dev specialist, I’m continually disturbed by the images put out there by the fashion industry—and it is an industry—in the pursuit of being “fashion forward” or edgy. We cannot go after edgy (if that is indeed what this is) in exchange for common sense. A continual stream of images such as these is not healthy for the girls in the photos or the girls who may choose to emulate them.
In the words of my colleague, Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth (aimed to educate, inform, and question the media/marketing influence on children, of which I’m an advisory member):
“Let’s be crystal clear people. The latest French Vogue “Cadeaux” kiddie controversy is not “misunderstood” at all. It’s yet another candid exposure of reckless, feckless industry hipsters that place profit over public health regardless of who gets caught in the crossfire of the media blast zone.”
The problem of sexualization of young girls has reached a critical point where it’s actually, and ironically, losing steam. Why? We see it all the time. It has become normalized such that saturation seems to have dulled the backlash and the unconscious “ick factor.” Many people just don’t seem find it a very big deal anymore.
People look at one image and say “I don’t see it. She doesn’t look sexy to me.” This is not about one image or one issue- it’s a collective picture that’s created when we use young girls to sell adult products by putting them in adult make up and adult styling and adult positions. (and we call it fashion and that’s supposed to make it all ok) And these kinds of images, coupled with:
- size 6x thongs,
- push-up bikini bras for 7 year olds, http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/skechers-shape-ups-for-girls-crossing-the-line-or-just-a-pair-of-shoes/
- pimped out Sesame Street Walker wear for tots, http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/skechers-shape-ups-for-girls-crossing-the-line-or-just-a-pair-of-shoes/
- shoes meant to sculpt the butts of young girls http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/skechers-shape-ups-for-girls-crossing-the-line-or-just-a-pair-of-shoes/
- 7 year old midriff-bearing gyrating dancers http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/why-the-seven-year-olds-single-ladies-video-was-so-wrong/ ,
- pouty dolls in skimpy clothing http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/body-image/tarty-toys-for-tots-a-pound-of-flesh-too-much-or-much-ado-about-nothing/ ,
- and the incredible pageant market encouraging (or at least not discouraging) vampy pelvic thrusts, big hair, midriff bearing and plastered make up on young girls.
We push and push and push the envelope for reactions, sales, and to capture the attention of a very fickle public that change channels and click buttons in seconds. A story doesn’t become yesterday’s news the next day, but rather, in the next few hours after it breaks.
This is an illustration of what I view as uninformed age compression. Age compression is typically when marketers or media take advantage of young people’s desire to look and behave “older” than they are. I say it’s uninformed because we’re talking about a young girl who can’t possibly know the repercussions of such a decision- what it does to those who look at her, yes, but also what it does to her.
We know that the research continually tells us that girls feel hurried- rushed to grow up—by the messages out there that tell them to sex it up and behave more adultlike– and this causes them stress and to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like eating disorders and risky behaviors. Anxiety becomes more prevalent.
My feeling is that we are creating a refueling cycle in which our girls see messages that tell them to act and look older, and even though that is stressful and uncomfortable, they do it, and receive attention for it, so they do it more. Society responds. Marketers then push a little farther providing images that are a little bit more suggestive, pushing the girls further down a compromising trail where they must separate their body from who they are. It’s a commodity that must be evaluated, compared, perfected, fantasized over, and pushed too soon.
Where is the collective shout that says “enough?” I remember when we talked about this when the photo came out of Miley Cyrus a years back. She was 15 years old. This girl is 10. How old must the model be before people finally draw the line in the sand and notice it’s been crossed? A child should be allowed to be—no, encouraged to be—a child.
I realize that fashion is supposed to be a fantasy But if this is what people are fantasizing over…I think we’re all in trouble.
Articles with more info on sexualization and this topic:
Fashion Industry Salivates over creepy photos of 10 year old french girl l:
My week on Planet Pageant
Sexualization linked to eating disorders:
Girls feel pressure to grow up too fast