12 April 2008

Exploitation and the Sexualization of Children

Nah, who decides here what is in the best interests of the child in a case where that child can be commercially exploited whether that be in the fashion world or on TV or anywhere else for that matter. This issue has come to a head in Australia when a 14 year old Polish model, Monika Jagaciak, was invited to be a part of Fashion Week.

What should be the minimum age for models to work in the industry. In a technical sense anyone under the age of 18 is a child and therefore the legal capacity to enter into contracts and the like is restricted. The legal functions are normally fulfilled by a parent or guardian of age who can make these legal decisions on behalf of the child. So, in this case, if a 14 year old Polish model has the permission and support of her parents and all things are above board then what is the problem?

If we are going to institute a minimum age for certain professions then this is a slippery slope. What should the minimum age for a child actor be? Let's face it, child actors are exploited in much greater numbers than children working as models. Child labor is a serious issue and one that must be addressed on a global scale and in a comprehensive manner because there is child labor and then there is "child labor". This is not a case of a young girl being forced into work breaking stones or stitching shoes to make ends meet for a family living below the poverty line.

Once again assuming that everything is above board and that she is earning what she deserves for the work she is doing in comparison to other models, then who should make the decision on whether this is in the best interests of the child?

Yet, the real issue here might not be the exploitation or the sexualization of children (although this is a serious problem in its own right) but rather the peer pressure that teens, particularly teenage girls, are under with regards to body image. It is often cited that these body image pressures lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

For me though the issue is one that where kids start working at a young age they miss out on being kids. They do not get to enjoy life like other kids and it is these experiences in these formative years that colour your views of the world in your adult life!

This particular issue blew-up because there is also a provocative picture of the then 13 year old Monika Jagaciak in a swimsuit being hosed down. Once again though if the standard is that a photograph that may be used in an ad campaign of a child in a swimsuit is exploitation of the child then who should make this determination? The parents? A guardian? The Government?


M said...

13 year old Monika Jagaciak in a swimsuit being hosed down.???

heart breaking..
government may care less, but parents? unless you'l say "they live happily enjoying Monika's income", i would question what on earth do they have in mind.

i remember one of Sex and the City episode :D . Kerry also commented on these 13 years old girls.."they have everything that 30 something years old women ever wanted, except childhood".

heart breaking.

btw Rob, have a nice weekend!

Rob Baiton said...


This is always teh worry isn't it? Parents exploiting their own children and living off of their children's wealth!

Yet, if the parents are legitimately thinking in the best interest of the child and the money is going into a trust fund or something similar, then what's the harm? This assumes that there is balance in the child's life between being a child and working for a living!

I make the same point though, albeit in slightly different words, as the Sex in the City quote you refer to...A childhood lost is a childhood that cannot be recovered...

A good weekend, always! Same to you!

M said...

still unacceptable. a minor is a minor, Rob. and 14 is a minor.

if an adult is prohibited from having sex with a minor (which is the case in many countries), then a minor should be prohibited from publicly posing seductive like that.

don't u agree?
and weekend so far is so so :D

Rob Baiton said...

Interesting question! But what constitutes kiddie porn...this is not necessarily a question of an adult having sex with a child.

There is no doubt that the photo is seductive, there is no doubt that the model is a child, the question is is it pornographic?

I have some concerns about the picture for sure. But what if the picture was in a magazine that was targeted at parents buying clothes for their children? Or if it was in a magazine targeting children?

Is there any difference between posing for a photocatalogue and working the catwalk?

All interesting questions for sure :)

M said...

this isn't about porn.

if Monika is falling in love to her 25 years old teacher, and they have sex, the police will caught the teacher for having sexual relationship with minor.
then the question will be; what if its true love? it doesn't matter. they will still punish the teacher.

what matter is, how strong the child protection organization influence the policy makers.

Rob Baiton said...


And with all due respect this is not about a teacher falling in love with a student...

The reason I posted the pictures was to cloud the issue and then raise the question:

1. What is the proper age for a model to begin modelling work?
2. When that model is a minor, then who should make decisions on the minor's behalf?
3. If a parent or guardian then lets the minor be photographed in such a way who should be punished and what should that punishment be?

Actually, the post was not about this young girl exclusively, she was a means to an end, it was really about whether the picture is in fact provocative if the intent is to sell a swimsuit?

Most people would not, by looking at the picture at least, recognize this child to be 13 years old. If the photo was in a fashion magazine then most would assume without a second thought that she was older!

My one final question relates to whether the picture is in fact a case of the sexualization of children?

Because if you say that the real issue is how child protection NGOs are able to influence policy makers, then I think this misses the point.

For me child models and actors are a fact of life. They target a particular segment of the market that has no direct buying power but an inate ability to effect a market not interested in the product but more interested in satisfying their nagging kids.

This is about business. The question is: Should there be rules to govern the child modelling and acting game?

M said...

yes. like everything else in the world :)

Rob Baiton said...

Just a little factoid update...

This post has been the one that has directed most traffic to my blog!

It seems posting a picture of a little girl in a swimsuit is like ants to honey!

The other post that has done pretty well is the one that includes the homoerotic depiction of the Last Supper...

What have I learned my fellow bloggers...sex sells and it pays to be controversial! I did not really learn that but it sounded good! I already knew that and my stats now confirm this to be the case...