Fashion Bloggers Confirm That Children’s Well-Being Is Not A Priority In Fashion

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Yesterday, I went through quite a few reactions to the Good Morning America segment in which I commented on the sexualized images of Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau. Most disappointing to me were a few responses from within the fashion blogging community that interpreted Thylane’s Vogue spread as a commentary on working models in the industry.

Styleite makes it clear that they are not defending the pictures of Thylane and that they find much of her portfolio “questionable,” but they also observed the following:

While we found the images somewhat creepy, it’s safe to assume Carine Roitfeld was trying to provoke and, more importantly, make a point: that most models working today are in their early teens — they’re as much children as, well, actual children. And that’s the angle that GMA missed.

Stylecaster makes the same point, suggesting that the magazine was hoping to make a satirical comment on the age of most models:

…would it hurt to take a moment to discuss what message the magazine was trying to send? Carine Roitfeld has a daughter, Tom Ford likes things sexy, but he is respectful of women, so maybe the idea was going deeper than shock value. Maybe it was a commentary on the fact that girls like Lindsey Wixson were barely out of puberty before they put on high heels and a pouty red lip. Maybe it takes putting a ten year-old in similar poses to let people see that although a girl looks mature for her age, it doesn’t mean she is.

While that message is entirely probable and quite clever in the theory, the magazine’s usage of children to make such a commentary evokes larger questions about the ethics surrounding the use of children in satire. Regardless of the intention for the Vogue photographs, children are still being used to convey it. And even if the intended message is sympathetic to these child models, we’re nevertheless seeing these girls with a projected adult sexuality — we’re still being asked to view them in an adult way. Is the assumption then that imposing this type of highly sexualized gaze on children is permissible if there is larger thesis being employed? Are these images justified simply because they were designed to function as parody? I’m inclined to say no.

I agree with Styleite that Carine Roitfeld was most likely looking to “provoke” readers and audiences with this spread, and that the photographs were most likely intended to be jarring. But going for sheer shock value should not be conflated with a constructed commentary on a particular issue. I assume Vogue was aiming for the former.