Media Monday – Sex, Children & Advertising

Picture yourself walking through your local shopping mall. You are surrounded by billboards, signs, shop fronts, people trying to smother you in hand lotion or convince you to stop and ‘try’ something. It’s bright, loud and busy. You decide to pop into Roger David to buy your dad a new cardigan. Would you even notice the sign hanging over the racks of cheap imported Hawaiian shirts? Probably not. But even if you did, would your thoughts go beyond “Ooh, that’s a bit weird”.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published this article. It is a disturbing and eye opening look at the dark side of advertising.

So,What is wrong with this particular image? Where do I start?

  1. It depicts a young, teen girl

The simple fact that an image of a young child  is being used to attract the middle aged men who shop at Roger David is blatantly wrong and unethical.

2. The girl is made ‘silent’ in the image

The other alarming aspect of this image, is the presence of something in the girl’s mouth. This is actually a common theme in advertising and is designed to dehumanize the person by making them ‘captive’ or ‘silent’. Most of the time it is women depicted in this demeaning way.

In the book ‘Can’t buy my love’ Jean Kilbourne says:

“Women, especially young women, are generally subservient to men in ads, through both size and position. Sometimes it is blatant but other times subtle but it is designed to depict the female as passive, non-threatening, and easily dominated…”

Apparently this makes the advertisement more attractive to men.

With this in mind, remember this image is of a child – not a grown woman – a child that should never be forced to be silent, passive or dominated.

3. It uses the words ‘new love club’

If that title isn’t alluding to paedophilia then I’ll eat my hat. Clearly, this image is designed to be edgy and dark with the suggestion of sexual attraction to a child.

With all we know about how advertising ‘normalises’ feelings and beliefs in society then this image should be especially shocking.

Are we okay with industry normalizing paedophilia? That might sound extreme but it’s not. It all begins with a seed that grows and gains momentum. Before long, our constant exposure will de-sensitise us to the tragic consequences of child sexual abuse.

As a society, we are accustomed to seeing sexualized images everywhere.

The question is where we draw the line.

What I desire to see (and be apart of) is creating an awareness among parents so that we can protect our children and preserve their childhood.

It’s not just about children witnessing an image like this. It’s about what it represents and says about the society and culture we live in.

We must never underestimate the persuasiveness AND the pervasiveness of the influence of advertising on our lives and our children. We  need to protect them not exploit them.

If you want to get proactive about the topic visit collective shout to join their campaign protecting girls and women from sexualisation in advertising and the media.

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