Leopard-print designs, pink frills, ruffles and bows. In the eyes of young girls, what’s not to love about Liz Hurley’s new line of swimwear? Judging by the angry backlash of Tweets from parents, obviously quite a lot, with labels such as “skimpy”, “disturbing, “sexualizing” and “unsuitable” (Cable, 2014) all circulating in the public arena.
Featuring the “Mini Cha Cha Bikini” for girls under eight and the “Collette Bikini” which is described as being “great for girls who want to look grown up” (Cable, 2014), it is no doubt that Hurley’s latest children’s swimwear collection is controversial. Since posting a picture of the range on Twitter two weeks ago, Hurley has been bombarded with online insults (Cable, 2014), the mediated public sphere rife with criticism:
Amongst all the discussion and debate, it seems as though the only opinions that have been excluded are from the children themselves – the socially constructed, innocent, sexually corruptible beings (Faulkner, 2010) who will forever be the “inept victims of products” (Gauntlett, 1998). After all, is this not how we perceive children? Do we not impose our own connotations to these images? Do we even have our own interpretations or are we victims ourselves, subject to an ideological system which requires us to view these images through a paedophilic lens and thus, identify a (non-existent) sexuality in the children (Faulkner, 2010)? One user certainly thinks so:
I think the problem is the people who see something sexual when they look at kids in bikinis. They are the weirdos! (‘Liz-Hurley accused’, 2014)
It must be recognised, however, that we are only part of the problem. While it is only natural for parents to worry and express their concern, hardly any efforts are ever made to address and resolve such anxieties. Instead, the media creates alarming stories, exaggerated through claims of ‘corporate paedophilia‘ and the very selective referencing to research reports, which provide gratification for parent’s fears. This, in turn, escalates public concern and triggers a “moral panic” which is both unfinished and ongoing in the mediated public sphere (Turnbull, 2014).
Whilst arguing that the sexualisation of children in the media is often a shared ideological interpretation at the point of viewing rather than representation, this is not to say that such exploitation does not occur. In fact, it is through reading fellow student’s posts, such as Natalie Cupac’s discussion of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’, as well as Tiarne Blackwell’s research into a seven-year old girl who was given a voucher for breast augmentation surgery on her birthday, that I have become more aware, and accepting, that child sexualisation is not always a perceptual issue, but can often be a reality that has significant implications.
Overall, I have found this week’s topic to be the most fascinating and personally rewarding. Writing this blog post has assisted me in reaching a new level of engagement with the concepts and issues discussed over the past six weeks, which I feel have all cumulated into my greater awareness and interest into the media and its role in our everyday lives. Thank you BCM110 students for making this learning process ever the more pleasurable and exciting!Giverny
Interested to find out more about Liz Hurley’s controversial swimwear line? Watch this video.
Cable, S., 2014, ‘Backlash over Liz’s bikinis for kids: Actress bombarded with criticism on Twitter over skimpy designs for the under-eights’, Mail Online, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2595600/Backlash-Lizs-bikinis-kids-Actress-bombarded-criticism-Twitter-skimpy-designs-eights.html>.
Velez, A., 2014, ‘Girls’ Leopard-Print Bikini Brings Out the Tiger Moms’, The Stir, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/170687/girls_leopardprint_bikini_brings_out?next=11>.
Faulkner, J., 2010 ‘The Innocence fetish: The Commodification and Sexualisation of Children in the Media and Popular Culture’, Media International Australia, No 135, pp. 107-108.
Gauntlett, D., 1998, ‘Ten Things Wrong with the ‘effects model’ in ‘Approaches to Audiences – A Reader’, Arnold London, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm>.
‘Liz-Hurley accused of sexualising kids’, 2014, Australian Women’s Weekly, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.aww.com.au/news-features/celebrity-stories/2014/4/liz-hurley-accused-of-sexualising-kids-1/>.
Turnbull, S., 2014, ‘Relating media theory to media issues’, notes from Lecture 6 of Introduction to Communication and Media Studies at The University of Wollongong.