Vogue “Cadeaux”-Children ARE Gifts. Not To Be Wrapped & Sold

Jan 6, 2011 “You have to separate the art from the artist.”

How many times have you heard that turn of phrase relating to everything from hotel smashing rockers and hiphop thuggery to mind-bending visual assaults on the senses from advertising and pop culture? Art is subjective, yes. Actions that harm are not. Let’s be crystal clear people. The latest French Vogue “Cadeaux” kiddie controversy is not “misunderstood” at all. It’s yet another candid exposure of reckless, feckless industry hipsters that place profit over public health regardless of who gets caught in the crossfire of the media blast zone.

As a creative director myself for umpteen years, I’m perplexed by a cultural credo that consistently confuses the word “satire” with salacious shock-schlock just to pull numbers, generate buzz, and fetishize children in sexploitation with an abhorrent wink-n-nod in ‘aren’t we clever, pithy and edgy making fun of our own industry?’

Photographer Tom Ford and former Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief Carine Roitfeld have been playing “push the button watch the buzz fly” in design-to-offend mode for quite sometime, selling subversive to hang their hat on the ‘artsy’ emblem a la LadyGaGa’s playbook, without taking time to deconstruct how it’s landing on the masses in ambient splattershot seepage.

Whether it’s the “can’t look away from the accident scene’ Crystal Renn Vogue plastic surgery spread or these young six and seven year old kids eerily stamped with ‘Cadeaux’ (gift) labels which might as well be a chapter in this USC prof’s treatise on “Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting” for corporate pedophilia… fashion is crossing the line into grotesque desensitization when no holds barred imagery is put forth sans moral compass for deeper examination.

Click on our “damaging drek” category on the sidebar and you’ll get a whiff of what I’m talking about, again and again and again. (see massive link list at the end)

Read my interview with Jean Kilbourne co-author with Diane Levin of So Sexy So Soon, or our post on the APA Taskforce detailing the harm we’re doing by Packaging Girlhood with hypersexualized corporate pedophilia.

Or save yourself the need for a shower and cut to the comments with ‘what are we gonna do about it?’ Knock. It. Off. Hipsters.

Media has a huge role in curbing violence and exploitation of women and children. This is nothing short of an Assault on Little Girls as this poignant blog post about the Vogue Cadeaux campaign conveys. (don’t miss the comments sections, some great points are made)

Maybe you don’t see the “porcelain doll” smashed to smithereens or tears of a clown/painted lady imagery that comes across my desk daily (check this Media Watch video if you want a 2 minute summary of ‘what’s wrong with this picture) …

Hyper-sexualized environs (CCFC factsheet here) have created a minefield that even young K-5 elementary girls are faced with dodging daily. G-string bikinis and thongs in size 6X, provocative poses and boy-toy messages didn’t just get there on their own.

Media and marketing created this dynamic and mass media is critical in communicating a responsible voice yet instead we blast it out there for parents and kids to mop up the mess, shower themselves off, and deal with the tainted infiltration of pre-pubescent children plopped into pop culture spreads.

It’s like errant mind pollution spewing sewage that lands on us all, even when we plug the dyke, it spurts out again from a different media orifice.

As I’ve said here before about what mass media can do, there are REAL LIFE crimes of violence against women and children intermingled with glamorizing, romanticizing and sexualizing content as news items get mixed up in a mass media cesspool of profit before common sense…

Industry titans continue to skate on the responsibility front, while children’s mental AND physical lives are touched from depression to stress, self-worth and beyond as echoed in this Telegraph article “Children Have Never Had It Harder, Say Their Parents.”

As for the usual “hand-wringing, purse-clutching” accusations toward parents claiming much ado about nothing and asking “why would kids be reading French Vogue” —I offer this recap of my very first post on this blog, “Mommy, Why Are Her Legs Spread Like That?” about a freeway billboard to reiterate that media is ambient.

Sexualization is saturating media at multiple levels…whether it’s Toddlers and Tiaras reality TV show crud or campy vampy Beyonce-wear you certainly don’t have to ‘watch it or read it’ to be impacted by it.

Need I remind of the misogynistic misfire that MTV2  put forth a few years back in the lump-headed crassness of Where My Dogs At episode “Woofie Loves Snoop” showing women being objectified as servile beasts in bikinis, sexualized into mind-bending “pimp-ho” and “bootylicious” porn stereotypes, squatting on all fours, tethered to leashes and defecating on the floor?

Need I ALSO remind that the network exec justified this Saturday morning fare as a “TV14-rated social spoof?”

Point? Media images STICK and they get there in a rapid cognition BLINK.

In that instance, 17.2 million viewers of ‘Where My Dogs At’ in the first season were exposed to racist cultural caricatures etched into the souls of a whole new generation

Doesn’t matter if they ‘pulled it’ after the fact, they never should have ‘passed it’ from storyboard stage. Same goes for this vile Vogue bird cage liner.

Now I’ll pass the baton to Nancy Gruver’s blog of  Daughters.com and founder of New Moon Girl Media who puts out a heartfelt plea in “so what are we gonna do about it” action steps. Tinged with frustration and angst echoed by many girls orgs striving to “Spark Change” and light a fire for industry accountability, she’s a stalwart publisher of positive media for girls putting forth the million dollar elephant in the living room question of how to team up for best practices and spark SUSTAINABLE CHANGE.

Nancy writes:

“I’d love your ideas on what New Moon Girls can do about issues like this. How can we support safe media, fight negative media, and assure positive media for girls? Basically, how can we team together to support girls?

I’ve recommended this book before and I’m motivated to do it again: So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by long-time children’s and media advocates Dr. Jean Kilbourne and Dr. Diane Levin.

It deals with children from infancy through adolescence (and is very much about boys as well as girls) and will spark a lot of discussion and action for you, your family and your colleagues. It’s for parents, teachers, and everyone who cares about children. The book helps us understand how sexualization affects children of all ages and genders and gives us practical things to do about it.

So Sexy So Soon provides in-depth analysis of the media’s effect on impressionable kids, and gives parents the information, skills, and confidence they need to play a proactive role with their children around sexual issues. It includes poignant stories that demonstrate how our kids internalize what they see and hear, guidelines and sample conversations for talking with kids about these sensitive subjects, and offers practical strategies for counteracting the disturbing messages that bombard our children every day.

Again, please post YOUR ideas on what we can do together. Thank you.”

So what do YOU think? Tactics please?

A ‘girlcott’ with wallet whacking like we did with the American Apparel repeat offenders? (I dunno, that only goes so far since our media machine is like Medusa’s head of snakes…whack one off and two grow back even more vile)

Should it be more of a universal Healthy Media Act legislated policy issue? A Women’s Media Center or NOW type of organizational alliances? A media literacy and children’s health initiative from schools to global messaging to elevate humanity as a whole?

Can “common sense” and “industry accountability” even BE legislated? And even if it can, in a global community of always on media, this is international in scope and systemic in impact…

Should it be “celebrity driven” with Geena Davis’ gender equity thinktanks and Hollywood and industry researchers and stakeholders?

Should it be grassroots outreach with local/regional scalability, pairing teams like AboutFace and Shaping Youth and Adios Barbie with national orgs like Girls Inc and Girl Scouts and the YWCA?

Mull it over. Leave your thoughts. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go shower off the residue.

Beyond the fragmentation of advocacy on such a colossal task I’d like to give some serious mindshare to the idea of the Spark Change movement forming by youth for youth at the first ever Spark Summit…and the “Powered By Girl” Facebook group and .org site which puts the outrage in the mouths of the girls impacted directly…

I’d like to add boys and men. Big time. And bring in corporations who want to elevate their brand to stand for something good. (I’m thinking of the success of Liz Claiborne’s Love is Not Abuse, for example, dealing with teen dating violence, or Nike’s GameChangers for Ashoka global visionaries)

I’d like to see YOUTH use media to ignite the flame, then bring in all the other orgs and entities that can stoke it to spread positive over negative like wildfire and tamp down the smoldering smut into ashes.

Who’s got a match? Flame on.

**Action Updates: Don’t miss: Change.org petition to Conde Nast here, and great post by Debbie Reber detailing the APA harm in point by point factoids.

Related Reading on Shaping Youth by Amy Jussel (yes, just a wee bit vehement about this crud)

Girls Are Not Candies, Tweens Are Not Teens, Thongs Are Not Undies

Sexualization Summit to Spark Change!

Spark Ignites a Summit of Powerhouses, Geena Davis & More

The Girl Revolution: Empowering Girls Vs. Consuming Them

New Moon Girl Media Community Online

Girls Prescription for Self-Worth: Respect Rx

Bottom Feeders Like American Apparel Need Whacked in The Assets

Raising Girls Amidst Meat Marketing: Carl’s Jr, Burger King Raunch

Taking Aim at Target: Think That V is a Coinkydink?

When It’s Not Hip to Be Square, Sexist Spongebob & Burger Shots

Sexed Up M&Ms Sell Fashionably Decadent Premium Sleaze

K-Mart/Alloy Episodic: First Day Series (Cwappy cues to kids)

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag…Er…Face. Nose. Belly.

Body Blitz: APA Shows Harm of Early Sexualization

Body Image: Tips for Teens (Both Genders!) To Survive the Media Morass

What Sells: Infants As Fashion Statements & Joke Props?

So Sexy So Soon, Shaping Youth Talks to Jean Kilbourne

Beyonce’s Dereon Divas: PopTarts and Sesame Streetwalkers?

Sexist Undies: Slimy Santa Innuendo Gets the Heave Ho-Ho-Ho!

Bratz Movie Seeps Bratitude Into Kid Culture

Where My Dogs At? A Misogynistic Misfire-MTV2

Pussycat Dolls Vamp for Lame TV-the ‘F’ Word is Feminist? Hardly.

Celeb Pop Culture and Media’s Tipping Point of Toxicity

Hollywood Walk of Lame—Victoria’s Secret Models ‘Earn’ Star? For WHAT?

Mommy, Why Are Her Legs Spread Like That?

Shaping Youth Is In the L.A. Times (Miley Mess

Kids Are A Captive Audience With Ambient Advertising

Race, Gender, Sexism: Pop Culture Cues & Kids (3-part series)

Commodification of Kids: The Backlash Has Begun

Shaping Youth Through Ambient Advertising

Manga Makeovers And Other Body Image Cartoon Capers

Facelifts for Kiddie Characters?

Gender, Race & Sexism: Shaping Youth Through Pop Culture Cues

Girls As Boy Toys Takes an Even More Toxic Turn

Preteen Tips/How to Say it To Girls

America the Beautiful: See it. Support it.

Childhood Matters Radio Show: Raising Strong, Healthy Girls Today

Packaging Boyhood Authors/Interview: What ABOUT the Boys?

Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Turning Boys Into Monsters: Energy Drink Leaves A Foul Taste (Again!)

Buffed Boy, Body Image and Tween Scene ‘Hottie’ Factor

Media Literacy Resources for Empowering Girls (Besides Shaping Youth, Dr.Robyn Silverman, AdProofing, PigtailPals.com,  So Sexy So Soon, Respect Rx, Rachel Simmons.com, Rosalind Wiseman.com, The Girl Revolution, TrueChild, & other youth advocate blogs, see the list of resources on our sidebar e.g. aligned orgs like: About-Face, Daughters.com, Packaging Girlhood, Hardy Girls, Healthy Women etc.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Recos & Must Reads

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes (Packaging Boyhood, Oct 2009;  S.Y. Board Advisors)
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown

Sexual Teens, Sexual Media: Investigating Media’s Influence on Adolescent Sexuality Jane Brown et al (Eds)

APA Task Force on the Early Sexualization of Children (full 72pp pdf)

Girls Shape the Future: Study/Girls Inc: Early Predictors of Girls’ Adolescent Sexual Activity (summary: 8 pp pdf)

Resource List from So Sexy So Soon

CCFC Fact Sheet on Sexualizing Childhood

CCFC Two-Page pdf of stats & resources on sexualization

KFF.org “Sex on TV4″ Program for the study of media & health

Wellesley Centers for Women: Commentary on So Sexy So Soon

What the Mass Media Can Do

(For Starters: Substitute the Word Sexualization for Violence & Connect the Dots Between the Two)

Refuse to justify, glamorize, sanitize, sensationalize or normalize violence/sexualization.

Establish industry task forces to respond to concerns raised about children and media violence/sexualization. (e.g. monitor advertising that targets children or explore the consequences of portraying violence against women & girls in music/videos)

Encourage collaboration to prevent digital media crimes, including child sexual exploitation, the distribution of child pornography, and cyberstalking.

Donate air time to organizations that oppose violence, specifically against girls & women. Reinforce via online resources.

Work with advocates, parents, and researchers in the fields of sexual assault and domestic violence to promote music, music videos, and music Web sites that reflect values consistent with ending violence against women and girls.

Develop story lines, images, characters, programs, and products that promote healthy attitudes toward women, masculinity, relationships, and sexuality.

Employ the power of the media, entertainment, and advertising industries to prevent teen violence, and support efforts to reduce children’s exposure to media violence. (again substitute the word sexualization, you get the drift)…(see the rest in my original post here)

Yeah, I’m ramped up…what can I say…I want 2011 media to be more about positive picks than damaging drek. You in?

Oh, and for fun…a plug for positivity in the fashion realm to leave on a positive media messaging note today:

T-shirt Alternatives/Worthy Positive Products:

Tee-Party Post Featuring “All Things Girl” Like:

Have more to add? Just ping me to take a peek: amy at shapingyouth dot org. Soon we’ll even add our own  Shaping Youth nonprofit/logo items and lil’ store to support our message to shape up media in a healthier positive direction!

Meanwhile, for “Women2Follow” on Twitter, dedicated to inspiring girls and women…we’re still list building and I need to update to ‘the new Twitter’ soon so if any of you have helpful tips/advice/guidelines let me know as I can’t find my “stream” anymore…it’s an ocean! 😉



  1. Thanks for the link Amy!

  2. Education and Awareness. Let’s have some of these edgy brands to use their flare for media on something good for change. I think they need a little perspective in life… even the young homeless of Nairobi know how to use media for something positive. -> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-jansen/trash-is-cash_b_797414.html
    Flame on!

  3. Ladies…champions, please keep up your amazing work. I can’t fathom the cost you pay, for your consciousness—but I salute you for it, I thank-you for it, and I fight, because of it… Y’all are the best. Such a sad, sick world it would be without you watchers…
    Dr. Laurie Johnson

  4. Amy, You hit the nail on the head: “(For Starters: Substitute the Word Sexualization for Violence & Connect the Dots Between the Two)

    Refuse to justify, glamorize, sanitize, sensationalize or normalize violence/sexualization.”

    This is the issue at the core-the more desensitized we become the deeper (and thicker!) the cesspool. I am a fan of counter messaging on all fronts. Also I agree completely that this is an assault on both genders–collaboration between men and women is imperative.

  5. Wow, Amy, you ROCK! I’m so glad you are on the web. You give me hope and help me sleep at night.

    The sexualization of children begins when our girls are small and we praise them for being so cute and pretty, give them party clothes, expect them to kiss and hug our friends, and allow them to attend pre-school in high heels. We mean well, but we have to start thinking this through a bit better. We may not be able to control the media, but we can control our responses to our children, which might just mean being as excited about our daughter’s mud pies as we are about the way she looks in a cute outfit.

  6. Well, thanks friends…must say, there are times when I think about ‘chucking it all’ and going back to the corporate side of the branding business to do good things with FUNDING…as it’s hard to keep it together without underwriters and sponsors in a tiny one horse show.

    Yep, it’s true…It’s me, myself and I as the ORG in this self-funded organization, with a hearty 20 or so advisers since I haven’t been able to open up/sanction sponsors that meet my picky branding needs.

    We’re gettin there though…I knew it would be a ‘work in progress’ when I started a few years back to reach critical mass and build it from scratch sans selling my soul. No regrets in taking my time to let programs take shape. Not a one.

    2011 will need to be the year of the full funding. (&/or syndication/sponsors/rev gen/expansion, etc

    “Ancora imparo” (and along those Latin lines…Citius Altius Fortius!)

    Onward. Thanks for taking the time to comment

  7. Dawn Winters says

    Hi. I am interested in knowing if you accept guest bloggers? We are looking to post information about:

    School suspension for kids with ADHD
    TV and child behavior

    Please let me know if you have any interest.

    Dawn Winters

  8. Really depends on the writer, topic, content, bkgd and tonality/style. Feel free to submit a piece to amy at shapingyouth dot org and I’ll take a look…Policy is: no vested interests/no sponsorship of influence-etc. needs to pass the sniff test…;-)

  9. Oh, it’s not a naive work by hipster fools. It’s an effort to help push pedophilia to the fore. That’s been happening for quite a while now. By trash, such as these. Even the term ‘cadeaux’, ‘gift’, is the term a pedophile would use when referring to children.

    These people have to be exposed for the sick criminals they are.

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