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?