By Alam Bains:
A model sprawling over a leopard print bed cover, wearing heavy make-up and gold stilletos, striking a seductive pose. Nothing unusual right? After all, almost every fashion magazine carries pictures like these on a regular basis. But the model being described here is Thylane Blondeau, a 10 year old kid and the magazine in question is Paris Vogue, special edition edited by Tom Ford.
In a similar incident, a French Fashion Brand, Jours Apres Lunes launched a lingerie range for girls aged between 4-12 yrs, the advertisements for which show very young girls wearing lingerie, sporting make-up and bouffant hairdo’s.
These incidents have sparked off a debate throughout the world. Are we sexualising children? Are children being exploited? Have we commercialised childhood? Parent groups and political parties have come down heavily on Vogue and Jours Apres Lunes saying that these images are physically disturbing, disgraceful and totally irresponsible. Are children beind denied the right to be children? Yes seems to be the answer. Children are being exposed to this adult world which they are not yet capable of handling. According to psychologists, this can not only lead to mental disorders but can also lead to children having distorted body images whereby they want to fit the socially accepted definition of pretty or handsome.
Before we write it off as a western phenomena, lets take a look at our reality shows. You have small kids performing item numbers, doing sexy dance moves like pelvic thrusts and heaving their bosoms, wearing the same clothes as the actors and actresses as well as the same sexy expressions. You have kids in comedy shows who crack adult jokes which are applauded. Is that not sexualising children and taking away the essence of childhood away?
It is a worrisome state of affairs as child experts believe that children are under increasing pressure to mimic adult behaviour owing to irresponsible marketing and advertising.Experts have ample proof to say that physiological changes are occuring early in children these days with puberty setting in as early as 8 years. Around the world, there is an increase in child pregnancies and abortions, juvenile crime and cases of teenage depression and suicides. Recently, three 10 year old boys were suspended from school on grounds of sexual harassment, but they admitted to just playing the “Rape Game”. A 12 year old bikini model becomes pregnant at 15 and proudly posts her baby scans on Facebook . These are just a few examples to give a picture of how this is affecting children. The real scenario is even worse.
Many terms have been given to this trend of selling age inappropriate stuff for children through massive advertising and marketing campaigns, right from “corporate paedophilia” to “pornification of children” and “adultification of children”.This issue raises important concerns as to how children these days are growing up.Do we really want mini-adults who have information about everything under the sun apart from what it is like to be a kid? Let childhood be innocent as it is supposed to be.We need to take a hard look at how children are being influenced by popular culture as well as how they are presented in the media. It is not a call to ban those reality shows and advertisements, but we need to put some regulations in place to protect the interest of the children. It is a call to ensure childhood remains playful and innocent and kids remain kids.