The Problem With High-Fashion Advertisements As Taught By Children

by Alisha Khanna

Upon scrolling mindlessly on YouTube as I usually do, I came across a project by Yolanda Dominguez regarding high-fashion advertisements.

I was expecting it to hold the usual run-of-the mill sexism in terms of body shaming in the fashion industry and what perpetuates "not skinny enough," but as I kept watching, I was pleasantly surprised.

A popular theme on YouTube is the premise of “kids reacting to” certain videos.

In her film, Dominguez shows a group of children a series of fashion campaigns, and asks them what they notice about each one. The group of students were children around the age of 8, including both boys and girls.

The advertisements include campaigns from the high-fashion editorials of Alexander Wang, Balmain, Dior, Loewe and Marc Jacobs. The video is titled “Ninos vs Moda” (aka, Children vs Fashion), and is told in Spanish, accompanied with English subtitles and shocked expressions.

It wasn’t until I was able to view these advertisements through the eyes of child-like innocence, that I was able to see the blatant sexism in high fashion. Which leads me to think, what aspect of fashion and media is ever safe?

The children in the clip saw the men in the campaigns as heroic and strong, some as owners of companies and essentially, as men in high power.

The women, on the other hand, were seen as helpless, hungry and sick. They were seen as deathly ill, and on one hand, the girl even looked like she was “taking a sh*t.” The reactions of the children were purely innocent and the campaigns began to seem laughable.

This got me thinking: At what age do we suddenly become immune to advertisements and the messages they send?

When do we accept this as the norm and allow the younger generation to view these advertisements as normal? There has to be a reason that I, at 21, am completely desensitized to these campaigns.

Perhaps, it is my constant use of social media, or the fact that I follow many Instagram and Twitter accounts that showcase these sorts of images, but I just sort of don’t think twice. However, when I watched the video, I was able to see what themes each campaign was exhibiting.

That women are helpless, lonely and need men to save them out of garbage cans (literally shown in advertisement by model Cara Delevingne). Some are catty and can’t be in a group with other women without viciously fighting (shown in the advertisement campaign by Balmain).

But the men in the advertisements are always of power, success and affluence, and are always seen in a positive light as long as they have bold suits, tight skinny jeans and a shapely jaw line.

The sexism in these ads are thinly masked, yet it took a video of young students to recognize and interpret this for me to bring any light to the issues present.

The results of this project showed the embedded violence and lack of equality between men and women. In a world where fashion is seen as glamorous and luxurious, why is no one quick to accuse and criticize the influence the industry has in visual education?

What messages are being supported when we feed into these editorials? Sure, we’re more sensible as consumers and can see past the shock value of certain campaigns, but obviously, that comes with age.