“MeXXX” Kids

Image

The controversial advertisement you see above is from Mexx Kids’ 2011 international marketing campaign. If you are not familiar with Mexx, they are an international company that originated in Amsterdam and specializes in fashion and accessories for men, women, and children (Mexx). When I first discovered this image I was not necessarily excited to write a blog post about it due to its distasteful and inappropriate subject matter. On initial glance, the image provoked the feeling of discomfort, which led me to come to the conclusion that things that make me uncomfortable need to be discussed. Mexx’s advertisement not only sexualizes young children, which is the greatest issue I have with this image, but it also brings to light the problems associated with gender polarization, and is devoid of racial diversity.

The sexualisation of individuals occurs in many forms such as holding someone to a standard based on physical attractiveness, or in the case of the Mexx Kids advertisement, inappropriately imposing sexuality upon an individual (Aulette and Wittner 409). This imposition is blatantly obvious due to the fact that the four children are completely topless. Considering that this is a clothing advertisement, it is strange to see that none of the children are wearing shirts, and the jeans that they are wearing are not even shown at full length. The reason why this is such an issue is because children are now being involved in the “sex sells” marketing scheme that was initially dominated by and reserved for adults. “Sex sells” (Aulette and Wittner 126) is a saying used in the advertisement business in order to promote and sell products, even if these products have no relation to sex whatsoever. This tactic is well used by companies such as American Apparel, but has even been adopted by food restaurants such as Burger King. Usually this is done by over sexualizing women and putting them in vulnerable poses to sell products (Killbourne), while sexualized men advertise products by asserting their dominance. In this case, children in the age range of 8-10 are being used to do the same thing. Nudity in the media can also be used as a sign of sexual availability and this is not the type of message that children should be sending out to other children and adults. Another issue with sexualising children involves the fact that we live in a time where pedophilia and pornography are on the rise. In the hands of a pedophile, this image could be considered child pornography, yet because it is branded with a “Mexx” logo it is considered acceptable advertising. This advertisement makes it seem ok to view children in a sexually suggestive way, when it really is not.

Even though all of these children are half naked, the one positive thing this advertisement does is promote equality of the sexes in terms of bodies. By choosing to show both the girls and the boys topless, Mexx Kids is able to show that above the waist, there really is not much difference between the anatomy of boys and girls, especially at a young age. Therefore, there is no reason to treat boys and girls differently. With this said I found it interesting to discover that amongst the people that also find this advertisement inappropriate, some show more concern for the girls rather than the boys even though they are all photographed topless. While researching I came across a blog covering this topic in which the author writes “No parent should be okay with their 8 year-old daughter being seen topless by the whole world. And how is that child going to feel when she’s older, having been exposed like this?” (Sarah Henke Design). In response to this, should a parent feel okay with their 8 year-old son being seen topless by the whole world? This quote not only portrays androcentric ideas, it also shows the issues associated with gender polarization. Androcentricism refers to making the males the norm, while everything deviating from this standard, such as women, appear to be less than human or the “other” (Aulette and Wittner 67). As a culture we somehow agreed on the rule that topless men are normal, but topless women are not. Next, gender polarization refers to the idea that emotions, items, social positions, and ideas are either male or female (Aulette and Wittner 67). How easily we forget that boys and men are also susceptible to many of the circumstances that girls and women face, such as eating disorders and rape, and they should also have their feelings accounted for especially in situations such as this Mexx Kids advertisement.

Transitioning back into what this advertisement does wrong, we can see that hegemonic masculinity is being promoted to children. This idea is evident in the way in which the girls are positioned in comparison to the boys. Both girls in the photo are standing slightly in the background while the boys, are dominantly placed in the foreground. The girls also seem to be physically much closer to the blonde boy in the centre, and one girl even has her hand placed on his shoulder. This suggests that the most dominant male is seen as more attractive to females, considering the other boy is seen slightly distanced from the rest of the group. Although all of the children are looking in the same direction, the expressions on the faces of the boys are very stern and powerful, making them look tough, while the expressions of the girls are more vulnerable. Aside from sex and gender, race is also involved in this advertisement. May I remind you that this is an international campaign and therefore should probably include some racial diversity. “Fashion is a site of power which should not be dismissed; by ignoring it, one also ignores “…the centrality of gender, [race,] sexuality and desire to their meaning and use” (Niessen & Brydon, 1998, p. xiii/ lecture 8). This quote calls attention to the influence of the fashion industry on many aspects of the way we perceive ourselves.  The “power” in this case is in the hands of white individuals who dominate the fashion industry, and therefore set the standard for beauty for everyone else. It is important that fashion advertisements, especially those for children are racially inclusive so that all races are equally able to see themselves represented, and are not forced to believe that there is one race that they must aspire to be like in order to be beautiful.

All in all, I hope that other clothing companies do not follow in the footsteps of Mexx when advertising for children, because there is no reason why children should be selling products with their exposed bodies, unless they are babies in a Huggies diaper commercial or something.

 

Works Cited

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Second ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Design Henke, Sarah, “Offensive Ads from Mexx Kids.” Blog. Sarah Henke Design, My personal hoard of design inspiration and news. WordPress, 18 Oct. 2012. 18 April. 2014. <http://henkedesign.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/offensive-ads-from-mexx-kids/&gt;

“It started with a kiss.” Mexx. Mexx, n.d. Web. 18 April. 2014 <http://www.mexx.com/en/were-mexx/history&gt;

Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’sJean Image of Women. By Jean Killbourne. Cambridge Documentaries, 2010. Documentary.

Tolmie, Jane, and Erika Ibrahim. “Cultural Appropriation.” Gender Studies Lecture 8. BioSci Complex, Kingston. 3 Mar. 2014. Lecture.

Niessen & Brydon, 1998, p. xiii (lecture 8)

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8 thoughts on ““MeXXX” Kids

  1. As soon as I saw the picture, I knew that this was going to be a strong analysis on a disturbing topic. Great job on finding an advertisement from a company that most people are unaware of, I know I was, and bringing in under the light of a gender and racial intersectional lens. My initial reaction was that this photo disgusts me and makes me want nothing to do with this company or product EVER. In the media chapter of Gender Worlds it is stated that “sex sells” – it is one thing to sexualize adults and younger teens, but to sexualize children is just wrong. I feel as though these children are too young to understand what they are even doing in this advertisement, and if that was me that did this advertisement when I was a kid and looked back at this picture now I would be embarrassed and disgusted. But do you think these children will regret it? Or perhaps is the advertisement setting the path for what our future generations will determine as appropriate and the norm? I understand your point that in a sense, they promote gender equality with the bodies although it disturbs me that they set a young girl equal to a young boy by having her shirt off. Even through this, I can distinguish easily which ones are the boys and girls from the face and hair, meaning gender socialization’s are still being displayed. For example the boys are standing tall and strong representing male dominance, while the girls are leaning on the boys showing dependence. To answer your question, no I do not think any parent should be content with having their eight year old daughter taking a picture like this for all of the world to see. I think an advertisement like this, one that is aimed at kids, is so detrimental because it is sending out negative messages about gender, sexualization, and race to such a young audience. Having this impression as a kid is only going to develop more as they grow older and stick in their mind as the norm and as whats right. In addition to this advertisement feeling like child pornography, it is setting the path for a negative future in terms of gender and racial equality. Great job! This definitely made me think and brought out some harsh feelings about the subject.

    • I think your comment brings up a lot of great ideas about consent. The fact that you don’t believe that parents should be letting their children model for topless advertisements, and that you would regret doing this advertisement in the future, if it were you, comments a lot on the idea that the children present in this commercial are not of age. Regardless of the fact that parents should be allowing their children or later-life regrets, I think that it is important to realize that these shouldn’t even be a question because anyone under the legal age of an adult (especially anyone 8 years of age) should not be asked to model naked because they do not have the full mental maturity to consent to having their bodies advertised in this way. I agree with you that this ad is disturbing because children who clearly could not consent fully to doing this ad are naked in it. That is why i personally believe that the children in this ad will regret their “decision” later in life and that parents should not let their children participate in this ad.

  2. “there is no reason why children should be selling products with their exposed bodies, unless they are babies in a Huggies diaper commercial or something.”

    I think that is my favorite line I have ever read of yours and I agree one hundred percent. These are /children/. It’s already a tender spot to have women and men exposed in the various “sex sells” advertisements as it is an issue that we have addressed in class, and has always been something I have never been fond of. But now it’s extending to children? And people consider this okay? Yes, by all means, good on Mexx for attempting to show how men and women are equal but that failed through, as you said, the positioning of the boys against the girls, and the fact that they did use children to attempt to sell this is down right disgusting. And it really is sad to see that one blogger really only looking at the women. These boys may feel just as terrible years down the road when they realize what they have done. All four of these models have the potential to regret this shoot. In any case, you did an absolutely wonderful analysis on this, and I wish you a happy summer. I hope to see you around next year 🙂

  3. Wow, such a powerful post. What really struck me about your post was the fact that you paralleled this advertisement to pedophilia. Although this sounds extreme, I agree with your claim. In the criminal code of canada, child pornography is defined as making, distributing, possessing, accessing, and interpreting child pornography (meaning pornographic images of children under the age of 18) (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/Search/Search.aspx?txtS3archA11=child+pornography&txtT1tl3=%22Criminal+Code%22&h1ts0n1y=0&ddC0nt3ntTyp3=Acts). I think that this ad could be considered child pornography because the children can not formulate proper consent. This fact can mean that this ad can evoke pedophilia or similar actions. Because of this comparison, I wonder if any countries have banned this ad or deemed it illegal?

  4. Wow. I had no idea this advertisement existed, and it makes me feel pretty sick. I have to commend you for tackling such a tough topic. I definitely see the connection with pedophilia, it’s pretty hard not to. It’s like they heard someone arguing that everyone’s bodies look the same at six years old and took that as permission to sell children’s bodies equally. Frankly I have no idea what what going through their heads and if they could possibly be deluding themselves into not thinking they were sexualizing horrifyingly young children. For the same reason that a minor cannot legally give sexual consent, these photos are basically sexual abuse. I think that whether it is a girl or a boy posing topless doesn’t matter, A) because their bodies are the same and B) because it is intentionally sexual and children cannot give consent for pictures like these to be taken, much less distributed as an international marketing campaign.

  5. I had no idea that this advertisement existed, and you bring up some very important points about why this ad is so disturbing and why it should not exist. This post reminded of the lecture where we were shown the “How The Media Failed Women in 2013” video. I find it very degrading that sexuality is being used to sell everything nowadays; including hamburgers, cars, and clothing. The fact that this advertisement sexualizes children to sell their products is very inappropriate, completely unnecessary, and disturbing. I agree with you, I find it very weird that this is the type of advertisement that the marketing team chose to use for a clothing company, considering the fact that the children are not fully clothed, and the jeans are half cut out of the picture. I find it horrible that children are being used in the “sex-sells” approach in this Mexx ad, and I hope that all other companies see the wrong in this advertisement and never use children in this type of approach ever again.

  6. @sydneywiesch I know Canada chose not release this campaign here when it went international so yay for us on that! But other than that, I think the other places released the ad. I’m glad to see that we all agree the ad is whack.

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