A child modeling contest was held on December 3 in Changchun, the capital of China’s northeastern Jilin province. Organized by children’s clothing brand VICKY’Z, the competition attracted dozens of girls and boys aged 3 to 15 to perform in a “Victoria Secret” style fashion show. Featuring children wearing lingerie and heavy makeup, the show has provoked fierce national condemnation.
This is not the first time that a child lingerie show steps into the public view, and it is not the first time it is criticized. Over the last two years, kids in tiny clothes walking the runways have been spotted in Hebei, Chengdu, Guangdong and other places, according to China Women’s News.
“It feels distressing and unintelligible to see these still not grown girls with bulging tummies catwalking on their uncomfortable high heels, making ‘mature’ poses under the guidance of adults and feeling very good about themselves”, commented the People’s Daily on December 14. “Is this kind of “aesthetics” meant to show the beauty of children, or conform to the low taste of some adults? Is this kind of show meant to showcase children’s talents as stated, or is it a means for companies to gather money?”
“(…) the dichotomy between the ages and the mature poses of these underage models, the ambiguous and unspoken sexual implications are gimmicks pursued by the companies for business promotion”, says an article from IFeng.com. “Pathetically, parents who are supposed to be the protectors of their children appear as accomplices in this farce.”
People commenting in Internet forums have also expressed their shock at the repeated exposure of “Victoria Secret” style shows featuring minors. Some feel that the sexualization of minors can easily solicit pedophiles. Others castigate the organizers and parents. One Weibo user going by the username 江东山泉syrg comments: “the show demonstrates the black heart of companies, the ugly side of the adult world, the darkness of the society and the harm to innocence.”
At present, there is no specific law to regulate child lingerie shows. Although it is prohibited by the Law on the Protection of Juveniles to coerce or coax minors into doing activities that are harmful to their physical and mental health, it is hard to define whether child lingerie shows belong to this category. The State Administration of Radio Film and Television of China also enforced rules in 2016 that contestants in the TV variety shows must be over 18 years old. However, since these modeling competitions are not TV shows, they don’t fit into this ban either.
“We hope that the relevant departments can further refine legal provisions, enhance law enforcement and prevent the spread of the phenomenon of “child sexualization”, says China Women’s News. “It is also the responsibility of every adult to protect children so that they can grow healthily and freely following the laws of physical and mental development, and enjoy a pure and beautiful childhood.”