face of fashion in Jamaica is that of an innocent looking thirteen year
old girl. Heavily made up and suggestively sporting a bikini,
this pubescent girl was recently featured in local newspapers, touting her as the latest winner
in the Pulse Jamaican fashion model contest. While it holds true
that the fashion industry has long been centered on the bodies of under-aged
girls, what is startling about this latest face of the Jamaican fashion
industry is its’obvious youth. This youth, when combined with
the not-so-subtle sexualization of the girl, paints a frightening picture
of our society. No matter the justification, how does it become okay to feature a child, not even fully physically developed,
in a bikini and wearing make-up?
As should be
expected, the image of the girl has been met by some degree of public outrage. Interestingly enough, the moderate
level of outrage seems to me to be in sharp contrast with the wide-scale
public reaction, some months ago, to the proposed introduction
of a school textbook
that made passing mention of homosexual families. At that time,
the collective national sentiment towards the text, which in defining
family types made mention of those with same-sex parents, can be summed
up as "Not in Jamaica!" The thinking and feeling seems to
have been that condoning, even if implicitly, the normalcy of homosexuality
would be a very un-Jamaican thing to do. Yet, this same level
of nationalism does not surface when we see the body of a young girl
being portrayed in such a manner.
The lack of
collective outrage is an indictment on our society.
Against a wider
backdrop of sexual violence being committed against, and perpetrated
by, children and adolescents, the sexualization of an under-aged teenager
is extremely problematic and potentially dangerous.
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We live in
a sexualized world. Companies use sex to sell the most random of products,
from jump drives to cars. Rapid advancements in the media have made
images and information accessible to almost everyone, easily bringing
music and home videos, photos and advertisements directly into our homes,
our phones, and our computers. The music we listen to; the movies we
watch; the advertisements which inundate us; and the newspapers that
we read are typically filled with references to, or explicit mention
Sex is not
a bad thing; but by fostering societies in which it is encouraged to
become a driving force, almost an entity of its own, we are engaging
in a dangerous game of Russian roulette. We are paving the way
for misplaced desire, in which desire becomes the be-all and end-all,
and humanity in general, and the protection of our children in particular
become secondary issues.
Calls have been
made for local
authorities to band together to tackle the growing wave of sexual violence
that is threatening the lives of our children. While it cannot
be stated that images such as that of the 13-year old model automatically
trigger sexual violence against children, with burgeoning evidence of
such abuse, it just seems like a risk we can no longer afford to take.
As the saying goes, if we are not choosing to be a part of the solution,
we must therefore be a part of the problem.
Any move, subtle
or otherwise, which not only encourages us to look at under-aged girls
as sexual objects; but by extension creates misplaced ideas amongst
young girls of what it means to be sexy, is dangerous, and ultimately,
our children are paying the price.