By Melissa Campbell
The Internet has been blowing up lately with discussion around Jour Apres Lunes, a French company that’s released a lingerie—excuse me, loungerie—line for little girls 4-12 years old. The photo shoot for the line features girls with big pompadours and expertly applied makeup. The reaction, of course, has been largely outrage.
It’s hard to formulate thoughts on something like this. What is there even to say? I can’t explain why it’s so awful to make lingerie for four year olds because I didn’t think I would ever have to explain it. I mean, shouldn’t that be a given? It’s like asking me why it’s bad to drink a gallon of milk and then go running—you just don’t do it! Why are you even asking me why it’s bad? You’ll puke! Duh!
In this Today Show clip (which, for all of its shock and horror at the images, sure went out of its way to show each photo at least ten times each), a bystander says that the photos are inappropriate because they “show too much skin.” I think this is a common reaction in situations like this, when we know it’s wrong but can’t quite put our finger on why.
“Showing too much skin” is the way we simplify all of our culture’s problems with sexualization and focus them back on the woman (in this case, little girls) in question. I don’t think the problem is that you can see the girls’ midriffs; it’s the fact that they’re four years old, yet this company and photographer are treating them like fully sexual adults.
I should say I’m not averse to everything in the collection. I actually think some of it is cute and age-appropriate. That yellow pinstriped cotton two piece is adorable, and if I had a daughter I would totally let her wear it on hot days. (Again, the problem isn’t the midriff.) But those silk bra and panty sets with the diamonds? Black ruffled bras? Get out. There’s no reason that those should exist for little girls to wear.
This line and its accompanying photo shoots are creepy; these garments are forcing undeveloped bodies to (quite literally) fill the spaces of their adult counterparts. It’s not “playing dress-up,” as Melissa Wardy points out at Pigtail Pals. Playing dress-up is explicitly pretend, with too-big clothes and childish makeup. This shoot is not pretend: it is hair tousled just-so and makeup applied by an expert with panty shots that wouldn’t be out of place on an American Apparel billboard.
I feel like people behind this collection are the kind of people who think Lolita was a sexually precocious girl who seduced Humbert Humbert. Of course, that wasn’t how it went—Humbert Humbert was a predator who invented stories about a little girl’s sexuality in order to make himself feel better. And man, if Humbert Humbert were a real person, he would be salivating for sure right now. What is this lingerie line if not an attempt to show that girls are capable of playing sexy the way women are sexy? That girls should play at that kind of sexy?
This is all part of the narrative we hear and see every day: women are there for the world’s pleasure, and little girls are nothing more than objects in training.