Friday, January 7, 2011

Teaching the young how to be an object

In French Vogue's recent edition, I'm not sure which is more disturbing -- the photographers who thought shooting sexualized images of six-year-old models was a good idea, or the parents who consented to allowing their daughters to be used for magazine sales and goodness knows what creepy-minded "readers."

Yes, the French edition of the fashion magazine published a 15-page photo spread of kindergarten-aged girls, all dolled up in clothes worn by those a couple of decades older. They were placed in poses and situations intended to evoke sexual imagery. Their make-up is dramatically done. Their hair is arranged identically to adult models. Their heels are inches (plural!) high.

And they are six.

I will never forget an 11 or 12 year old girl shyly explaining to me in a classroom that she had to give up reading teen magazines because they made her feel worthless, ugly and a failure. Her classmates snickered, but I greatly admired her bravery, as well as her willingness to forgo cultural norms (to some, cultural necessities) in order to grow in authentic womanhood.

It's not just a handful of little girls who recently graduated preschool who are affected by Vogue's photo shoot. Moms will receive their subscriptions, and their little daughters who want to be just like mom will leaf through the pages innocently, only to be confronted with other children their age, or younger, who already look like mature, stunning, articulate adults. And won't that inspire a raid of mom's closet to find the heels and the make-up and the clothing? Or won't it begin a transformation of the girl's thoughts as to what outfits she wants to buy at the store? Who she wants to look like?

There are so many angles from which to decry the photos -- the photographer, the editor, the parents, the "readers," the children who will find the pictures. And through it all, the little girl on the left page of the picture above has eyes that are begging for someone to recognize that at age six, she is more than an object. In fact, that she's not an object at all. That she's a person who deserves to be loved unconditionally for who she is, not what she can do. Someone to tell her that her future model-inspired temptations to anorexia, self-hate, 24/7 make-up and revealing clothing can be thrown out the window for a love that has already been given to her by a God who created her beautifully in His own image and likeness. But who is going to tell her?

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