Is it acceptable to market apparel in a way that sexualizes and objectifies young girls?
“If it feels wrong it probably is.” From business to family, I’ve more or less followed that as a universal truth since a discussion during a philosophy class at Penn State. Sure, I’ve not always managed to do the right thing. I’m a human being, we make mistakes, but knowing right from wrong typically hasn’t taken much intellect. Take a look at the picture above and tell me that doesn’t just feel wrong. I’ll get to more further down, but my personal reaction to the ad was revulsion. I am disgusted not only by the ad, but the men and women that put those young girls into that position.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not coming at this from some deep seated self-righteous position full of indignation. I want to make that clear. I’m as concerned for our sons as I am for our daughters. The girls pictured above are as young as 12. I’m also the dad that generally allows his daughter to dress the way she sees fit. At least to me, there is a marked difference between allowing a young girl to express herself in her appearance and tossing it out there attached to a tag line like “Pop This.” I can’t be the only one to have taken the link between the tag line and virginity can I? For reference, the models above are 16, 14, and 12 years old.
I think it’s important to separate what I’m saying here. I can’t crawl into the minds of the advertising execs that approved this particular strategy, but I think it’s safe to say they knew what they were doing. In this age of “any attention is good attention” advertising, negative backlash can be just as helpful as a well received and popular ad. It makes me both sad and angry knowing that ethics have been tossed aside and replaced by an anything goes mindset. Globally we have an attitude pervading our culture that young girls and women are objects to be possessed and used. Ads like this only serve to fill the paedophilic part of that message.
Check out the California Kisses website. They’ve taken these young ladies, photoshopped them and posed them much as you’d see in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. It’s almost as if, instead of marketing their product to the young ladies and their parents, they’ve tailored their website to closet pedophiles, men skirting child pornography laws by drooling over scantily clad under age girls. I went to the website and took look around hoping to see a different perspective. Sadly, it is much more of the same. More young ladies dressed provocatively.
Let’s go there though. Look around. Peruse the images. We spend so much time condemning other companies for promoting unrealistic body images, why should they get a pass? How many 12-year-old girls do you know who look like that? What message are we sending them? Just as “real women” are rarely included in ad campaigns, maybe we should be doing a better job with young girls as well.
How young is too young? Should we make it the age of consent? As we objectify women at younger and younger ages, where do we draw a line? Who gets to judge them. Should a 10 year old girl feel like she needs to pose provocatively in order to get a modeling contract? I just don’t know. I want to balance the protection we owe them with the freedom they deserve. The line has gotten blurry and I no longer know exactly where it exists, just that this ad feels as though it blew past it without a second look.
I know I’m raising more questions than I’m answering. Here in the U.S., supporters will point to freedom of speech. Legally, the company is protected, for sure. Let’s go back to what I said in the very beginning. If it feels wrong, it probably is. The truth is I’ve been stewing over this ad for about a week. I keep going back to it, expecting some kind of epiphany, a way I can write intelligently about the ills it promotes. I can’t. I’ve got nothing. I keep coming back to a feeling linking this and a gateway to the porn industry.
I ask again: Is it acceptable to market apparel in a way that sexualizes and objectifies young girls? The best I can do is end on this quote, left by a good friend on my Facebook page. “I’d appreciate it if you stopped posting it (The website and images). Makes me feel dirty to see it.”
For another take on the ad, take a look here.