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The high fashion brand Balenciaga recently released a shocking ad campaign sexualizing young children. These ads featured toddlers holding stuffed animals dressed in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) gear like harnesses and nets. There was even a court document about child pornography partially hidden in one image.
The ads were absolutely disgusting. After public outcry, Balenciaga apologized for the ads sexualizing children. They didn’t provide an explanation or donate funds to child protection organizations, they merely removed the ads. Balenciaga’s leadership team and anyone else responsible for these images should resign or be fired. Saying “We apologize for any offense,” is not enough.
The Balenciaga embarrassment is merely a symptom of a deadly disease that pervades our culture: the “pornification” of our media, the horrific danger it poses, and the damage it causes to our children. It is our responsibility as parents, teachers, and reasonable adults, to stand up for the safety of children who cannot advocate for themselves.
Why would one of the best-funded and most highly regarded marketing teams in the industry, which targets the most affluent customers in the world, consider this to be a successful strategy to sell purses? Who was this intended to appeal to, and why did they think it would sell a $3,000 handbag?
The Balenciaga images were so galling that little defense was mustered on their behalf even in the most sexually deviant corners of the internet. But when money was on the line many lost their voice. Celebrities that make big money from the brand through endorsements like Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman were silent for days. Kardashian’s reaction took a week, and even then she couldn’t distance herself from the paycheck she receives from the brand. Her lackluster response was nothing more than a tacit endorsement of the pornification of our society.
Where is the outrage demanding security and retribution for these children? We have seen the power of cultural figures when they demand justice for a cause. People and brands are “canceled.” Public figures are banished from public life. Individuals lose their entire livelihoods and reputations. But when a major fashion brand releases pictures that could flag an FBI investigation into possession of child sexual abuse material, the resounding clamor for justice from our culture becomes a muted whimper.
This is the moment for all of us to say no – we will no longer put up with the sexualization of our children. These are precious, innocent lives being emotionally and physically damaged by the worst of society, who value greed and lust above human dignity.
We must speak up with one voice opposing the degradation of our kids. This cuts across the shallow divisions of our time. Democrat or Republican, urban or rural, religious or non-religious, we must all stand up to defend those who we have a duty to protect. The actions of the past week show how desensitized our society is to this madness. Silence is not an option. In this case, silence provides cover for child abuse.
After the backlash, the ad’s photographer claimed that he had no say in what props or models were used in the shoot. He claimed his only responsibility was “to [light] the given scene, and take the shots.” The items were clear, and the age of the child was apparent. How the photographer could continue to capture these images and not speak up is mind-boggling. When we see an atrocity occurring, such as a crime against a child, and we say nothing, and do nothing – then we are part of the problem.
Speaking out means demanding justice. The hyper-sexualization of children must stop now. According to the United States Sentencing Commission in 2019, over half (52.2 percent) of non-production child pornography offenses included images or videos of infants or toddlers, and nearly every offense (99.4 percent) included prepubescent victims. The sentencing enhancements for images depicting sadistic or masochistic conduct or abuse of an infant or toddler were applied in 84 percent of cases. Just to make it a bit more different.
Clearly, the expert marketers at Balenciaga think that our society values social status and sexual pleasure – including the deviant and violent kind – more than the safety and welfare of our children.
This mindset perpetuates our throw-away culture, whose worst consequences include the struggling state of our foster system, failing schools, and the dehumanization of children in the womb. When we devalue life at any stage, we devalue it all together.
The truth is, children can’t advocate for themselves, they can’t organize, vote, or lobby. They are totally defenseless. It is the civic obligation and moral imperative of reasoned adults to be their voice and refuse to give an inch of ground to those who want to destroy them.
Balenciaga should be ashamed and held accountable. Children deserve better than our pornified culture. We owe them safety and stability.