I don’t know which is worse, French Vogue for painting and contorting a 10-year-old girl to model on the pages of its Enfants magazine, or the Washington State strawberry farms just fined by the U.S. State Department for hiring six-year-olds as pickers.
And who’s most responsible, the parents who allowed their children to work the fields and the studios or we who buy the berries and the magazine?
Either way, the way we regard children and use them is changing, and infinitely for the worse. It’s wrong to single out the French. Little-girl beauty pageants in the American South are positively gut-churning but no one has thought to ban them. In Canada, the sexualizing of tweens with padded bras and a purchased pre-sassiness is a modern phenomenon, here to stay.
Fresh tiny Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau is working for living in a way she doesn’t understand. At least I hope she doesn’t. Ten-year-olds are pretty smart though.
Her mother (allegedly) wrote on Facebook, “Thylanne doesn’t know about the buzz and I want to protect her from the deepest of my heart . . . she’s so young.”
So why is she arched on a rumpled leopardskin-sheeted bed in a gold lamé cocktail dress slashed to the waist, in gold stilettos with heavy chains wrapped around her birdlike ankles, around her neck the kind of gold medallion you usually see nestled in a pornographer’s chest hair. She’s petting two rabbits. They are of course young bunnies. Older rabbits are so unattractive.
Thylane is the daughter of French international soccer player Patrick Blondeau and actress/TV host Véronika Loubry, people who make a living from the beauty and grace of their bodies. On them it’s fetching, on Thylane retching. The French fashion world has warped her mother. And whom would it not?
French women spend time and money wearing makeup that makes them look as though they’re not wearing makeup. A chic Frenchwoman — study Loubry’s look carefully online — keeps her hair simple and flat, which is hard work every morning. Her skin takes hours to keep clean and clear, her makeup is understated T. LeClerc, her “product” cabinet is wardrobe-size. Her clothes are simply cut in block colours, not patterns.
Her aim is to look like an artless child, because men like that.
So how does Thylane look? Like a woman in her 30s, maybe 40s. Explain that. I mean it. Explain that because I cannot.
Loubry erupted to a sympathetic blogger: “My daughter isn’t even naked, no need to blow this out of proportion.” But sex isn’t about nudity necessarily. It’s all about signals, the kind that a little girl doesn’t know she’s sending out to freaks for judgment.
Women are judged, and judged hard, on appearance. This isn’t fair, and I’m hoping it will change for the next generation. Film theorist Laura Mulvey famously came up with the notion of the “male gaze,” in which women are rated by their passivity, their “to-be-looked-at-ness.” The gaze was “voyeuristic,” seeing women as whores, and “fetishistic,” as madonnas.
Photo shoots of little girls dressed up as blastingly sexual women are the ultimate whore-madonna displays. They make it socially acceptable for the gaze to take in girls too, to assess them for the sexuality slapped on them by grown-ups.
To be fair, I have bought French children’s fashion magazines, Milk, for instance, looked in horror at the images and bought the clothes for my kids. Years ago, I showed these magazines to a fashion editor and asked if there was a piece to be written about toddler porn. She thought it absurd. She didn’t have young children, though. The female gaze can be equally unkind.
I sometimes sense that this society doesn’t like children at all. We worry about Canada’s low birth rate and then demonize single mothers. Parents have to fight like holy hell for daycare. We stunt women’s careers when they have children. And now we see children as an income source? A starter kit for our own sexuality that was stunted by a million acres of online porn?
Poor Thylane. She is not going to have a happy life. She will look at these pictures as the harbinger of bad things.
Strange adults will always be testing the laws against kiddie porn, just as berry farms chose to see fieldwork for toddlers as a form of babysitting. It’s up to us to put a stop to it.