Yes, I've been slacking off - it's summer and my mind is already in London. Instead of waxing poetic about my hopes and expectations, I've temporarily halted my Thoughts for Tuesday column. While I can't guarantee this post marks its official revival, I can't help the urge to write when disturbed.
Thylane Loubry Blondeau is a French model, with long hair, striking eyes... and she's just ten years old. Even so, child models and actors exist, frequently without controversy ('Toddlers and Tiaras' excluded from "the norm"). She graced the cover of Vogue Enfant, shown frolicking as many children do. Now she's made her way into the pages of Vogue Paris, not without dispute, however.
At ten, she's barely younger than the teenage models seen in the same publications and on fashion runways. As much as the industry is criticized for infantilizing women, it's no stranger to middle-school aged girls dressing in a way many people consider "too mature." Daphne Groeneveld, for instance, was only fifteen when featured on the cover of the same magazine containing an infamous Blondeau editorial (Vogue Paris, January 2011, guest-edited by Tom Ford). Alongside Tom Ford, she conveyed youth, beauty, and luxury.
In Groeneveld's case, it was hardly a satirical move - it's arguably normal. Yet defenders of Thylane's oft-provocative editorials cite satire as a driving force and inspiration. Little girls play dress up in the mothers' and sisters' clothes, right? Yet there's a difference placing a young girl in an adult setting, in "adult" clothing, in "adult" make up, in "adult" poses for an adult industry. It's hardly attempting to sell a product other than controversy itself.
Commenters at Fashionista argue it's perfectly fine if her parents allow it and if she simultaneously enjoys it. Yet is a ten year old capable of consenting to implied nude photos (photos taken sans-shirt, in this case, though her torso is covered by beaded necklaces in a style popularized by hippies). Furthermore, if her parents allow this, does it make it acceptable? While her mother does claim to have her best interests in mind, it is important to remember that parents can be guilty of exploiting their own children - their discretion doesn't automatically make it right.
Other commenters claim if one views the photos as sexual, then there's something wrong with the viewer. The nature of these photographs does not justify any harassment. Period. None of her photographs reach the horrendous level of child pornography, but some claim that these actions, by default, objectify the child.
It isn't a matter of whether the viewer herself (or himself) is aroused by images. It's more of acknowledging the sad truth that there are people who do enjoy it, and knowing this can promote a feeling of discomfort in the viewer.