Vogue Paris Magazine Gets It Wrong. VERY Wrong.

A photo shoot featured in the December issue of Vogue Paris has many girls rights advocates, including yours truly, up in arms. The photos feature extremely young girls dressed up in women’s clothes, covered in makeup and jewelry, and displayed in oversexualized poses. For the record, “sexualization” was defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as occurring “when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.”

I’d say this editorial qualifies: Throughout the 13-photo spread, in which girls are “modeling” women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, makeup, and other “gifts” (the spread is called “Cadeux” which is French for “gift), the young girls are shown laying down in provocative positions on a bed, on the floor, on a tiger fur (see pic above) and more, all while looking seductively at the camera. You can see all the images here.

I find these images so disturbing, so wrong, that I have to wonder: What is the point of this photo editorial spread? What was Vogue Paris thinking? Seriously…I don’t get it. Do the editors actually believe that women, the ultimate consumers of the products being modeled, are more likely to purchase these items if they’re modeled on pre-pubescent girls? Do they not realize how these images aren’t only in poor taste, but they actually perpetuate the harmful notion that girls should be objectified and that their real value is in their beauty and sexuality?

I can only assume that Vogue Paris hasn’t read the APA’s recent report on the oversexualization of adolescent girls, which found that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is undoubtedly harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development. Here are just a few of the negative outcomes for girls:

  • When girls repeatedly receive a strong message that a girl’s worth is primarily determined by how beautiful, thin, hot, and sexy she is, over time many girls view their bodies and their appearance as objects to be evaluated by others. (Instead of evaluating themselves from a first person perspective – “How do I think I look or feel?”, they focus on themselves from a third person perspective—as they believe others will be judging them -”How are others judging my body and appearance?”)
  • Girls as young as age 11 who are preoccupied with self-monitoring and fear of not meeting others’ expectations are more likely to experience negative psychological outcomes including shame, anxiety, poor self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders.
  • When middle school girls spend their mental resources on body monitoring, self-evaluation, and concerns about others’ negative judgments, they have a decreased capacity to fully engage in challenging activities, including academic tasks. As a result, girls often emerge from middle school with a lowered sense of self-esteem, a discouragement with school, and a school performance that does not match earlier achievements.
  • As girls are objectified, they are more likely to be treated in sexually degrading ways, resulting in sexual harassment or even sexual assault. Girls who are sexually harassed at school experience significant negative outcomes including difficulties in concentration, avoidance of specific individuals, changes in school attendance, and lower self-esteem.
  • There are far more female role models in popular media who are in sexualized roles such as beauty pageant contestants, plastic surgery patients, video vixens, or reality television stars. In efforts to please others and to gain male attention, many girls make educational and career decisions that could negatively impact their futures.
  • Girls who judge themselves on cultural standards of sexiness may have lower esteem and self-worth if they feel they do not meet those standards.
  • As girls internalize media messages which portray sexual images that are “devoid of emotions, attachment, or consequences” messages, they increasingly present themselves socially in overly sexualized ways. Due to these sexualized Internet and media influences, many girls today may not know what a healthy sexual relationship is and how to garner respect in a caring relationship.

I’m sure that if Vogue Paris knew these findings, they wouldn’t have published their offensive photo essay in the first place, right? Well, maybe we should fill them in. If you want to take a stand against this oversexualization of girls in the media, let Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue Paris, know that they’ve gone too far. Join me in signing this petition created by Change.org!

And to read more on this issue, please check out my friend and media guru Amy Jussell’s Shaping Youth blog post, “Children are Gifts: Not to Be Wrapped and Sold.”

4 Comments »

  1. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth Said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the nod, Deb, yep, I let the ol’ tongue wag amighty on this one…as you’re right the APA side really needs called to light in a huge way, so thank you for doing so splendidly. As for the marketing side, I truly believe it’s the shock value/pushing of the envelope they’re selling as edgy/self-mocking satire in an attempt to be hip (they did the same thing w/the horrific Crystal Renn plastic surgery NSFW spread in the winter issue: http://tomandlorenzo2.blogspot.com/2010/11/crystal-renn-for-vogue-paris-nsfw.html)

    I’ll definitely sign the petition and add it to Shaping Youth, but I really, REALLY think media and marketing pundits need to get beyond a slap on the wrist with the damage and havoc sold as pop culture as of late…I’m mulling over the best practices side of ‘hows’ but I think parents, advocates, and youth themselves have just about hit that tipping point of toxicity and if we can snag ‘em before they sink into depression/giveupitis and instead ignite/spark a movement for massive change in ‘do no harm’ Socratic oath manner of public health and well being we might just have the fuel to set this sucker ablaze. Time will tell…

    Thanks for being such a vital, vibrant voice in the conversation. Onward!

  2. Shaping Youth » Vogue “Cadeaux”-Children ARE Gifts. Not To Be Wrapped & Sold Said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    [...] 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 [...]

  3. Alison Bower Said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

    Thanks for filling ME in on this, Debbie. I signed the petition and will continue to send the word around. It is good to know that you are there to advocate for our future leaders.

  4. Body Image & Media Literacy: Q&A With Deborah Reber, Part 2 | Weightless Said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 6:27 am

    [...] instance, check out her spot-on post on the Vogue Paris [...]

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