How Prada and Vogue Use Child Porn to Normalize Anorexia

Last Updated Aug 3, 2011 3:53 PM EDT

Disturbing new fashion shoots for Prada, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and French Vogue suggest that the fashion business believes laws prohibiting child pornography somehow do not apply to it. While the ads are not overtly pornographic, they each display children, some as young as 10, dressed as adults, in adult situations. Two of the shoots -- for Prada and Vogue -- are overtly sexual. The Vogue spread shows 10-year-old Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau (pictured) topless in one shot and wearing lipstick in another.

The Prada video shows 13-year-old Ondria Hardin caressing herself sensually:


There is a reason the fashion industry has convinced itself this is acceptable: It's part of the apparel business's campaign to normalize anorexia. These companies are advertising clothes for adults but know they will face criticism for using super-thin adult models. Their twisted solution is to use non-anorexic girls whose bodies are thin enough to meet the industry's bizarre aspirational esthetic for adult women.

In the Prada ad, for instance, although the model is obviously a young woman it's not at all clear that she's actually several years away from adulthood, and that it's therefore wildly inappropriate to find her sexy. Yet the video is for Prada's "womenswear," not girlswear.

In a thoughtful essay on Jezebel, writer Jenna Sauers notes that the fashion world for years has had a preference for children over adults:
... fashion's overall relationship with age is, to put it bluntly, fucked up. Models commonly start working internationally at age 13-14, and the pace of the work makes it difficult to do things like finish high school. (Models are independent contractors, and are thus exempt from many provisions of labor law, including minimum wage and age requirements, as well as legal protection from sexual harassment.)
Not everyone is buying it. Top Shop recently removed super-skinny Codie Young from its advertising after consumers complained that she looked anorexic. Retailer Revolve did something similar. Yoplait and Pretzel Crisps have both yanked ads that suggested obsessive, pathological dieting is normal.

It's difficult to suggest a workable solution. The fashion industry is clearly uninterested in reforming itself, or in child welfare. Legislation would infringe on First Amendment rights. Only consumers -- female consumers, specifically -- have enough power to force the industry to behave more ethically. Don't hold your breath for that, however, as women respond less to ads that feature normal-sized models.

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