Kids vs. Fashion is a wake-up call to some scary truths about fashion's portrayal of women.
The artist's video shows 8 year old kids various fashion editorials and asks them to describe what they see. The typical descriptions of the women in the ads is lonely, sick, dead, or hungry. The kids offer to help the women, suggesting they find shelter, or stop fighting with the other girls and be friends. The typical assumptions of the men in the ads is that they are heroes, bosses in a corporation, or studying to go to university. The kids aspire to be the men, saying "I want to be the boss" and "I want to go to university".
Watching these kids tear apart these ads, decoding the messaging in seconds, without a second thought, is frankly scary. These are the ads I pore over every season, the models I love and revere, the looks that inspire my own wardrobe choices...and all that without ever questioning the powerful messaging behind them. Oh sure, I am aware that women in both fashion and the wider media are over-sexualised, often child-like models of unattainable perfection, but I had failed to see what these children saw in seconds.
Women, time and time again, are treated violently and completely without respect, whilst their male counterparts (although still not quite as valuable in the fashion industry) are put in aspirational, powerful positions.
This is by no means the case with every ad ever, but it is true of too many of the fashion images we consume season in, season out. In fact, there is a move toward the portrayal of men in a manner which matches the women; less strong, more vulnerable, ...
While I am certainly not condemning the fashion industry as a whole (I love it, and am part of it), I am definitely questioning the way we portray people, and especially women in our images. What are we telling ourselves by portraying our models as hungry, helpless, lonely and powerless? And, perhaps more terrifyingly, what are we telling our children?
I'll say it again, I am embarrassed by the ease with which these kids decoded our ads. Clearly, I, at least, have become so enamoured of and entrenched in the norms of the industry that I didn't notice the ridiculous messages I'd been swallowing.