Today I came across a post by Melissa on how “Sexualization Shouldn’t Sell Swimsuits” – the post was about a Brazilian Swimwear company for girls creating a questionably slick advertising campaign that sexualises young girls to push their product line. I have to admit it was the picture that accompanied the post that made me gag and choke on my coffee. I dashed to the company’s website “Submarine Kids” and my jaw dropped further.
I grabbed a picture and posted it to my Facebook page – the responses were enough to make me realise that this really is a topic that NEEDS attention. As a mother, the pictures used to market the swimwear are outrageous. As a Marketer, they make me question the company’s social responsibility. As a woman, well, the whole subject just makes me question why is it necessary to exploit this child?
So, what’s the problem?
Well, in short, Submarine Kids have a young girl who is about 7 years old in a bikini, wearing colourful showgirl wigs, full make up in provocative poses. Is that really necessary? The bikini’s themselves aren’t really the issue – it’s the way the child, I repeat CHILD, is posed that I take massive issue with. Blurring the line between childhood innocence, fashion and pornography the images are confusing, disturbing and just plain wrong. Where is the company’s conscience in creating such images? Shouldn’t they be held responsible for creating ethically wrong images of young girls? How can they be allowed to use images of a child in an overtly sexual way?
I’m not going to address the social issues that such images will create – I say “will” because ultimately, allowing such images to be used in advertising will create problems. It has to. Issues such as eating disorders, body image issues etc are fueled by crazy depictions such as these. Children are children and they are not cognitively aware enough to say “Ahh yes, that’s a tongue-in-cheek cool ad campaign” – NO – children cannot process the campaigns.
Let children be CHILDREN!
As I have said, the swimwear itself is a matter of taste – it’s up to the parents to choose how they dress their kids. I am fully aware that many kids dress like mini (questionable) adults and that’s fine – they are not my kids. Yes, it’s up to the parents to decide how they influence their kids but at the end of the day it is short sighted to assume that your influence alone is enough. I don’t feel, like some have suggested, that these images are going to attract or create pedophiles – that in itself is a sick condition that no company can create BUT the campaign does cross the lines making the age of consent, suitability (call it what you like) substantially younger.
Clearly the creative director on this campaign is totally out of touch, maybe he wanted to cause a sh*t storm (and succeeded) but what is wrong with photographing the same girl in the same swimwear being a child?
Should companies be held accountable for sexualising children? Should such advertising be stopped as suggested by the Advertising Association in the UK? What do YOU think?
Was it just too much to wish for a “peaceful” morning read?! LOL…I should have known, last night! Alrighty, you asked for it!
I think it’s disgusting. Inappropriate. Abusive and wrong. Ok, Momma, so you have this beautiful, pure little girl, you have a lovely life and wonderful friends. You live in such a caring neighborhood, ahh, we are so happy your life is so peaches.
Get a grip. You disgusting, selfish, blind fool. Yey, your little circle is sweet and safe. What about that pig your pretty little girl just turned on with her sexy little peek-a-boo clothes? What about that perv, cruising facebook looking to get his rocks off with all the pictures us loving and proud mommies post of our innocents to share with family on the other side of the country (or world)?
Hey, ok, I’m sorry. I’ve done it as well. Posted cutie-pie pics so my sister and mom could see my little’s first swimming day (butt-naked)…my thought- hey, it’s not naked, till they are like 3-4 right? Wrong. I had a CLIENT call me and tell me! A hunter, we expected in less than a month, called me one morning and says, “Amber, I was on Face Book this morning and noticed you posted a ton of pics of the kids last night. Looks like you had a wonderful day. Amber, you have to remove those pictures. My daughter called me this morning (no shit) and said, but what if some sort of sick-o becomes fascinated with this beautiful little girl?” Wow.
Let me tell you, it never occurred to me! When I started actually thinking about it, it hit hard. It is MY job, MY responsibility, MY heart and soul… to protect my children. My daughter. Please spread the word.
We love our children and there ARE so many good, kind, compassionate people in our world, waiting to offer a word, direction or hand… but there are some seriously screwed up individuals out there that will use and or take that little girl you hold so precious and dear and destroy that shine. Ruin that potential. Crush that innocence. This is only a small thing, but it IS something we CAN do to keep those bad things a little further away from our children.
Thanks for your comment Amber. I totally hear you when it comes to protecting our children. We made a decision to leave BiP’s digital footprint for her to create – basically she is not online – her hands and the top of her head are but that’s where it stops. It’s less for the potential dangers, it’s more to do with allowing her to choose how she portrays herself online when that time comes. I digress.
I do think these images are damaging – if they are deemed acceptable and make their way in to the mainstream then the next generation is going to have some pretty bizarre issues when it comes to sexuality and children – 2 words that should NOT ever go together.
Do not get me wrong, I think that the photos are disgusting and absolutely disturbing. I see nothing artistic or cool about little girls posing in bikinis, wearing full make-up and bizarrely adult pouts. Is this pedophile fodder? Absolutely.
HOWEVER, I think it’s a gross exaggeration to say that photos such as the above will cause eating disorders and body image issues. As someone who has had (has? it never goes away) an eating disorder, it’s so much more complicated than that.
The media likes to say that images of stick thin models and airbrushed celebrities directly cause poor body image. That is way too easy. Obviously, the societal shift towards preferring thinner frames has a direct relationship with the rise in those diagnosed with eating disorders, BUT eating disorders and poor body image have existed for centuries. Women have used corsets, tapeworms, skin bleaching and padding to change their shapes in the past. The first documented case of anorexia was in 1695!
In my opinion, the main factors contributing to actual eating disorders are a genetic predisposition and the family dynamic. And I would argue that the family dynamic is the MOST important factor in body satisfaction. If you, as a parent, model self-confidence, self-respect and self-love, your child will pick up on and mimic your behavior. If you model self-loathing and body-dissatisfaction, your child will also pick up on and mimic your behavior. Above all, it’s important to have a sincerely healthy body image and model that for your child.
Which leads me to my ultimate point about the photos. The girl in the photos was exploited, and it’s disgusting. Her PARENTS should never have let her participate in such a photo shoot. As to the effect the photo has on other children…you can’t protect your child from everything. Nor can you control everything that other people do. The best you can do is try to monitor what they are exposed to and keep an open dialogue with your child. Easier said than done, obviously!. Are you going to be able instill 100% of your values in your child? Probably not, but I think it’s too easy to blame images like the above for certain societal ills (namely body image issues). I think parents ultimately need to genuinely reject the pressure that society puts on them to fit certain standards and stop projecting that pressure onto their children.
Just my thoughts!
Thanks for sharing Anna – I didn’t want to get into body issues as that is a big can of worms. From my experience of hearing 6-7 year olds talk about their fat on their bellies, diets, make up and what dresses make them look fat, sexy etc … I do think images such as these do, and will continue to play some role. Children are not children for very long anymore. I remember dieting at age 11 and pouring over teen magazines wishing I looked like the model in this advert etc … I was not reading Vogue. Ok, I didn’t have an eating disorder but I had and still have awful body image issues.
Yes, as parents we have a duty to monitor what kids are exposed to but at what age does our influence and opinion take a back seat in their lives? I remember listening to my friends over my parents from quite an early age – peer pressure starts younger and younger.
Personally I feel the images used by Submarine Kids run the risk of tipping the balance of what is acceptable when it comes to advertising to children. They do create a scary image of a sexy child – words that should never go together. Surely a child wanting to look sexy, act sexy etc is dangerous? Especially when a 7 year old has no idea what reaction their actions will receive. It’s a very thin line.
I do agree that a lot of pressure comes from society to the parents to the children but one of the most powerful marketing strategies is pester power – advertise to the children to push their parents to buy it for them – and guess what? It’s one of the MOST successful methods.
Thanks for your insightful comment!
Actually, it has been proven that children exploited to media in general will battle depression and body-image issues later on in life, however, its been proven that in cases like this, with younger girls being shown off like adults, in bikinis, in lingerie, or treated like a toy like in that ghastly show “Toddlers and Tiara’s” It is proven that sexualizing young children has a massive impact on their self asteem, their body image and mental dexterity. It also has been shown that they battle with themselves on a WHOLE different level. Its shown girls who are sexualized at a young age (not abused, but taught how to be sexy, live sexy etc) end up becoming sexually active younger, and way before ready and are more likely to see themselves as an object, rather than a human being.
Its a study thats been going on for a long time, all you need to do is talk to a therapist or research.
I hear you Ameena!! It always concerns me how companies exploit little girls I mean look at the image they are setting… the little girl in the pic is not the only one at risk here, it’s also the little girls watching her and thinking that this is how they are supposed to look and act… what exemplary behavior! it’s multibillion dollar industry that plays this game and it’s immoral… it’s the same school of thought that puts little girls into pageants… these kids should be busy playing! when I was their age I was in the backyard planting flowers, playing and running… what happened? there is much more to childhood than playing super model! Even cartoon characters are ridiculous… barbie-type, nails, make-up, high heels, tang tops and big hair! I tell you it’s doing terrible things to little’s girls’ self-image… a friend of mine’s nine year old daughter was on the treadmill the other day telling her mom she has to exercise coz she’s fat! she’s NINE! I wonder how I’m supposed to protect my little girl when the time comes… !
The problem is, moms must be buying these suits, or they would soon learn their marketing tactics don’t work. Someone is reinforcing these ads by making purchases.
I agree, the swimsuits themselves aren’t great but it’s the styling that puts it over the top. The same suits might actually seem innocent and appropriate in the context of actual childhood. Likewise the makeup and hair would be more OK with me if the girls were more covered up. No one thing about this campaign is horrible but when you put it all together it paints a different picture. And I am far from conservative!
I am with you Janine – it’s the whole thing that turns it into something quite wrong.
I’ve no words. Even the Baby Burlesque of the 1930s wasn’t this disturbing.
I don’t see those pictures as “sexual ” in any way. You do?
There is a difference between seeing something as sexual, pertaining to making someone feel that way.. Like a pedophile would.
However, everyone against this is commenting on how young girls should not be in clothing that is USED in a sexual atmosphere, and should not be showing so much skin because they are not grown and should not be.
Also, the poses… The poses are ACTUAL trademarked poses done by lingerie ads and Playboy magazine. So yes, they are sexual. Get the picture lady?
I love these young beauty`s, oh yeah!
OOOH SOOO SEXY… hmmmm 😛 and it`s all good.
They are just made for being hot, that`s okay and I have no problem at all. Take a look at the bride site and enjoy goodlife! Greetings from a guy who loves sweetcakes and hot sugger 😉
If someone see any sexual of these photos, I think they have to search and study themselfs.. I mean really, wtf? Im pretty sure that you write this sh*t because you just cant handle your own feelings. You’re just trying to find a peer support to your own views.. Its just sad and disgusting.