Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No excuse for ads that verge on child porn

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Would you like a little cheesecake with that celery?

Loblaw's Real Canadian Superstores are bagging their own apologies after a nationwide distribution of a flyer advertising its Joe Fresh underwear line.

The problem wasn't the bras, panties and tank tops being sold at the grocery chain. It was the fact that the models, all of them sporting fresh-from-the-bed, tousled hair and come-hither looks, appear to be in their early teens.

One model, shot splay-legged in a bra and panties, looks to be at the very start of puberty.

Loblaw insists the models are all at least 21.

Still, the company quickly agreed to yank the campaign from stores last week, following complaints from Canadian shoppers and others who received the flyer with their newspapers.

The Winnipeg Free Press distributed the flyer as part of a package of advertising inserts.

"We understand that our creative made some of our customers uncomfortable and we are addressing that now," wrote Julija Hunter, senior director of corporate affairs in an email response to questions about the campaign.

"The 'Underthings' flyer was the first one created for our Joe Fresh Intimates line. We apologize for any concern that this flyer may have caused to our customers; we value customer feedback."

One of those who complained was Dr. Jennifer Frain, executive director of New Directions, a local group that works with girls and women (including prepubescent children) who have been exploited in the sex trade.

"Given the increasing number of reports of the sexual exploitation of children and women reported in the Winnipeg Free Press and elsewhere I am really disheartened by this type of advertising and the messages.

"It communicates to young girls themselves and to society at large that young puberty-aged girls are to be valued for what they look like; their sexual appeal," she wrote. "It suggests that considering young girls to be sexual objects is OK in mainstream media."

When we spoke Monday, Frain said she applauds the grocery chain's decision to pull the campaign. She just wonders why Loblaw thought it was a good idea in the first place.

Winnipegger Arlene Elendiuk also contacted Loblaw to protest the advertisement. The mother and grandmother said she objected to what appeared to be children being shot in provocative poses in front of a mattress.

"If in fact the target market for these 'underthings' is young teens, then the ad campaign should have been done in a much more tasteful, respectful way and age-appropriate way," she said. "Young girls wear underwear. That's fine. But why not show them in different surroundings, like a sleepover at their friend's house? Save the suggestive poses and Lolita-like 'come hither' looks for porn magazines."

Some of you will still believe this is an overreaction, that the people who protested the presumed age of the models need to lighten up. But surely you'd agree it's disturbing a store would use a picture of a model who appears to be so early in her development that her bra is too big for her nascent breasts.

This is verging on kiddie porn.

Arguing that the models are actually women over the age of 21 doesn't carry a lot of weight. Victoria's Secret and La Senza also advertise lingerie and they don't feel the need to use models who clearly look underage.

The choice to use these young women was deliberate. It's part of a continuum of the sexualization of our children, a process that is beginning earlier and earlier.

Good for Loblaw for pulling the campaign. Kudos to average citizens who protested the images and the message behind them.

But here's something to ponder: If a mainstream grocery store thought these pictures were acceptable, should we really be surprised that some perverts look at children and see potential sex partners?

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2009 A7

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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