The following is a letter to the editor I wrote:
As I opened the September issue of Oprah, the tri-fold ad by Ralph Lauren/Polo.com brought a shock! It caught my eye because one of the children looks like my friend's 3 year old daughter. All I could think was how these young girls--maybe aged 3-8 have been dressed up to look like women. The message appears to imply that young girls/women are interchangeable--I thought of my friend's innocent young daughter and feared how men/boys are being taught to view young girls as "women" and thus, sexual objects. (and checking the polo.com site--these clothes were not for sale on the children's pages)
Later in the magazine, I came across Liz Claiborne's tri-fold ads. In comparison, these were quite tasteful for a woman's magazine--vibrant women dressed professionally. As you compare the two ads, you can see how the Polo.com ad is trying to achieve a similar 'adult look' that the Liz Claiborne ad achieved using actual women!
At a time when our children are constantly being threatened, isn't it time that we adults took responsibility and stop using our children as objects to be manipulated and exploited? While making money and selling products is an ever-pressured reality, are we will to accept selling our children as collateral damage to this pressure?
Oprah works hard on her show to address these issues--thus to have her magazine lend a blind eye to the ads that add to the problem of our children being exploited seems counter-intuitive. As the Liz Claiborne ads clearly show, you can produce beautiful ads that market a product effectively and not exploit our children at all. I would encourage the adults at Ralph Lauren and their advertising agency to sit and ask themselves 1) if they would want their 3 year old daughter exploited as a sex object 2) if they can be incredibly creative without exploiting children and 3)take responsibility for their actions and choose to make changes in the future ads they create.