Balenciaga’s continuing exploitation of minors
Nobody should minimize the importance of protecting children’s innocence
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High-end clothing brand Balenciaga is under fire for its new holiday advertising campaign, which included photos of toddlers holding teddy bears in what can only be described as sexual “bondage” gear. After a tweet highlighting the campaign went viral, the company issued an apology for “any offense … caused” and removed the advertising campaign from its website. The company admitted the bears should not have been included in photos with children, quelling any doubts about whether the toys were, in fact, sexualized. The bears are a part of Balenciaga’s 2023 spring line, which appears to include themes of violence, demonic symbolism, and, bizarrely, babies.
The campaign sparked an unofficial investigation by online sleuths into Balenciaga’s various advertisements. Discovered in the background of another recent ad is a document of United States v. Williams, a Supreme Court case centering on child sexual abuse material. The page shown mentions Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, which struck down part of the Child Pornography Prevention Act. Internet users also found in yet another Balenciaga ad the inclusion of a book titled Michaël Borremans: Fire From the Sun. Borremans is a Belgian painter whose dark, disturbing artwork depicts children, often naked, experiencing violence, trauma, and pain.
After days of persistent criticism, the label announced a $25 million lawsuit against the production company that designed the campaign. It also released a final statement on Instagram, promising to reform the company’s practices to ensure it doesn’t again release such exploitative and suggestive photos. Kim Kardashian, who partners with Balenciaga to promote its products, published a statement on Twitter saying she is “re-evaluating [her] relationship” with the brand in light of the photos.
None of these apologies or promises are adequate, however. Too much preparation by too many people goes into high-end fashion ad campaigns for this to have been accidental. Even without the blatant photographic exploitation, the company created and sells sexual trinkets made to look like children’s toys. This is commercial infantilization of violent sex. The product is sufficiently disturbing, and Balenciaga isn’t apologizing for it. They’re sorry they took their perversion far enough for people to notice and care. They’re not sorry for creating the item in the first place.
The products and advertisements should be a non-partisan concern, but, unfortunately, some in the media disagree. Journalists at the New York Times have lumped in valid concern about Balenciaga’s sexualization of children with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that former president Donald Trump was positioned to take down the global cabal of pedophiles running the world’s authoritative institutions. This is a malicious conflation that minimizes the real, pervasive sexual abuse of children and global sex trafficking. It also divides concern along political lines, making child exploitation a “right-wing” issue. Such political division is counterproductive to fighting against the sexual abuse of children.
So, what will come of this? Will celebrities cut ties? Will other companies demand systemic changes in the fashion industry? Will the Department of Justice investigate? The likely answer is no. It’s not like Balenciaga questioned whether men can become women or said something racially insensitive. We’re just talking about child exploitation here. Apparently, that’s just not an issue that solicits a strong response from many of the entities and celebrities that claim to care about social justice.
Christians’ response to such depravity, though, must be unwavering. Children are more worthy of protection—not less—because of their inability to speak and fight for themselves. For 2,000 years, the Church has been a refuge for the defenseless. We must continue to be that today, both in word and in deed. We stand for what is “good and right and true,” pushing back against the powers that seek to objectify children made in God’s image (Ephesians 5:9).
As I often say: children are always the unconsenting subjects of progressive social experiments. And, make no mistake, the sexualization of kids—the obliteration of childhood innocence—is a progressive social experiment directly connected to the decades-long march of the sexual revolution. In their fight against traditional institutions and mores, progressives have torn down safeguards and destroyed definitions, using “live and let live” as a Trojan horse for their perversions.
But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and His ways, His designs, His definitions, boundaries, and rules are better than what the sexual and moral revolution offers us (Hebrews 13:8). This is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago, when Paul described ancient Rome in the same way that we can describe modern America: full of debased minds, characterized by “all manner of unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18-32).
So, we Christians continue to shine as lights in the deepening darkness, pushing back against wickedness, defending God’s good order, and advocating on behalf of those who need us most, no matter how unfashionable it may be.
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