Vogue plays dress-up with little girls
As if the media standards for looking youthful and thin weren’t absurd enough, apparently adult women are now expected not only look prepubescent, but Pre-K as well.
Or so one might assume from a recent spread in Vogue Paris, a notoriously racy and boundary-pushing publication, that featured girls age six donning Valentino gowns, dripping with jewels, painted with heavy make-up, and sporting satin bras.
The December fashion piece was entitled “Cadeaux” (or “Gifts”, for those who need to brush up on high school French) and featured girls who should be spending time reading adventure stories or playing kickball lounging on leopard-print sofas giving their most come-hither stares and reapplying their wine-colored lipstick with manicured nails. In one particularly unseemly photograph, a bejeweled youngster is featured with a toothbrush in her mouth. If this was Parents magazine, I’d applaud the promotion of dental hygiene. But this is Vogue, and there is nothing that doesn’t ooze with sex in this publication.
Tom Ford, fashion icon, guest edited the issue; however, it seems to be Carine Roitfeld, editor-in-chief, who’s taking the heat. Actually, make that former editor-in-chief, as the woman who told reporters that she tries to do “something every month that is… not politically correct,” has “stepped down,” while rumors fly.
Fortunately, or so I hope, most women will recognize not only the ludicrousness of this 15-page spread, but also the potential danger that exists in portraying girls in this way.
So, what’s wrong with playing a little dress-up?
Portraying girls in adult apparel and situations and portraying adult women as young girls (à la Britney Spears sucking on a lollipop in a Catholic school girl uniform) reinforces the sexualization of youth, something that harms both girls and society.
In fact, the American Psychological Association created a Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and found that these media, products, and societal practices are significantly harming the healthy development of young girls. Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, Chair of the APA Task Force, stated unequivocally, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”
Messages like these in Vogue are sent to young girls during a critical period of identity development. They implicitly convey a message of objectification wherein the girls become objects of adoration for ideals of beauty and sexuality. Girls then internalize these messages and develop shame and fear around their bodies, which results in things like anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and impaired sexual development.
And the effects don’t end there. Society suffers as well, with the sexualization of girls being linked to sexist attitudes, poorer relationships between men and women, and sexual harassment. And consider this: If a young girl is too caught up with shame and fear about her appearance to do things like raise her hand in class or join the science club, we as a society lose out on enormous intellectual and leadership potential that could push us forward.
So while little girls playing in mommy’s clothes and make-up may seem benign, it’s not. Vogue Paris is doing a disservice not only to little girls everywhere, but to all us.
What are your reactions?