If Clive Hamilton and Julie Gale are against David Jones then I’m going there on a spending spree.
So Freedom of Information documents reveal a shocking sordid truth — one freelance photographer asked for 10 and 12-year-old models to look more “adult and sexy”.
As Sophie Black reported in Crikey last week, the girls appeared in an Alison Ashley advertisement created by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi for David Jones.
The documents had been obtained by Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids — and whose self-appointed role in difficult debates like this seems to be to run around, arms flailing, neurotically crying out, “won’t somebody think of the children!”
Maybe what the photographer meant was that these kids shouldn’t look too much like six-year-olds? Maybe he or she was merely trying to acknowledge that 10-year-old girls out there in the real messy world of growing up actually like occasionally looking older — like, I don’t know, their mums?
Or maybe the photographer was just some crazy pervert in sinister conspiracy with those well-known corporate pornographers, David Jones? Hell, maybe it was Bill Henson.
Clive Hamilton, also in Crikey last week, sniffed, “it was obvious to the authors of the 2006 Australia Institute report [about the alleged sexualisation of children and subtly called Corporate Paedophilia] that the girls in the Alison Ashley ad at the centre of the controversy were posed in a s-xually provocative way.”
Oh really? Obvious? Well, not to me, pally. No 10-year-old looks sexually provocative to me, nor to any adult I know. Want to know why? Because children cannot provoke s-xual desire in an adult. They are children. And that applies no matter what they’re wearing — a burqua or a bikini.
Look, I have no association with David Jones whatsoever. Yes, I like their Foodhall on Market Street in Sydney. I’ve met Mark McInnes, the CEO, socially on a few occasions. I’ve also debated these issues on Insight on SBS with both Gale and Hamilton.
I know Gale and Hamilton’s hearts are both sincere and in the right place. But hold on a minute, there. Corporate p-edophilia? Even metaphorically, to link the s-xual assault of children to marketing or advertising is taking hyperbole to absurd levels.
The Australia Institute report suggested that children are increasingly being portrayed in clothing and posed in ways designed to draw attention to adult sexual features that they do not yet possess. In other words, the allegations were that kids were being both sexualised too young and also running the risk of sexual assault.
First, there is no evidence whatsoever that images in the media, whether they be photographs in a catalogue or ads on television cause physical or psychological problems in children, or somehow make them think or act in an inappropriately sexual way.
Further, David Jones like all major retailers ensures that they comply with the strict guidelines about how children are portrayed. Indeed, they have adopted additional policies and procedures to ensure that children are portrayed appropriately and sensitively.
Ultimately, the great danger in constantly claiming that children are being sexualised is that people become incapable of seeing images of children in any normal way. We all begin to look at innocent images through the eyes of the paedophile. So a school concert becomes a pornographic display; a kids’ swimming carnival is a paedophile’s delight.
One thing we can all agree on is that child sexual assault is a horrific, disgusting crime. But if we really want to do something about it, shouldn’t we focus on something real and not a phantom?
Sadly the majority of child sexual assault occurs within families and has nothing to do with how children are dressed. Child abusers will always look for excuses for their criminal behaviour, seeing sexual invitation where of course there is none.
Some may find school uniforms provocative. Should we ban them? Nothing a child wears or does can make them an appropriate target for adult sexual attention.
Because if you think a photo of a 10-year-old girl in a party frock is a sexual image, then I’ve got news for you. The company that designed her dress isn’t the problem. Nor is the advertising agency that marketed it or the department store that sold it. The problem is with you.
So, Clive, Julie? Next time I hear that you’ve volunteered to man the phones at your local impoverished R-pe Crisis Centre, or maybe even start talking about real child abuse (here’s a clue — why don’t you Google, “Ireland” and “Priesthood”) then I might start taking you a bit more seriously. Until then I’ll just lump your ideas in the same waste basket as all the other social conservatives who have one dull solution to life’s complex problems — to ban things.
Now, just to make a stand, I’m off to David Jones to buy some stuff.