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Retailers' Fury At 'Pedophile' Tag

MAJOR retailers and publishers have reacted furiously to a new report that claims they are engaged in "corporate pedophilia" by using suggestive photographs of children in their advertising.
The report, by the Australia Institute's Emma Rush, argues that department stores Myer and David Jones are contributing to the "sexualisation of Australia's children" by stocking items such as bra tops for pre-pubescent girls, lip gloss for toddlers and skimpy underwear designed to be worn by children.
"It's part of a plan to sexualise Australian children, especially girls," said Dr Rush.
"For the sake of corporate profits, children are being posed like adults, photographed with come-hither expressions, and encouraged to see themselves as sexual when they are not."
Dr Rush's report, Corporate Paedophilia, released yesterday, concludes that sexualised images of children encourage pedophiles to see children as sexually available and encourage young girls to focus on their bodies.
But merchants and publishers were indignant, saying many of the images of girls included in the report were benign.
David Jones was aghast at being singled out for criticism, saying it had strict guidelines to prevent the sexualisation of children in its advertising.
"We strongly reject the unfounded assertions in the report," said group general manager of marketing Damian Eales.
"We take great care to ensure that children are portrayed in keeping with family values in our advertising material. No colour make-up is used and no poses or expressions are produced that could be construed as provocative or exploitative."
The head of advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, Simone Bartley, who handles the David Jones account, said: "We have never, ever eroticised children in any way for any client in any communication. Not only is the idea repugnant to us, we take very seriously the fact that David Jones is a family brand.
"All of our communications are consistent with this."
A spokeswoman for Frangipani Rose, which makes dresses, skirts and swimwear for the "tween" set, was likewise outraged at being criticised, saying: "Being mothers of daughters in the tween age group, we could see a gap in the market for girls' clothes which are not only innovative but are also age-appropriate."
Dr Rush said some people would see her report as "another conservative moral panic".
"We expect them to deny they are doing it," she said, "but the truth is, they pose children like adults."
Many of the images in the report came from Total Girl magazine, but editor Sarah Cornish said: "We have a very strict policy. We never show models wearing any underwear, sleepwear and swimwear.
"One of our biggest advertisers is Bonds and they make underwear for girls, and we always have it laid out flat.
"In our beach shots, we have girls in shorts, not in bikinis or swimsuits. We put bikinis on mannequins."
Dr Rush said many images of children were designed "to draw attention to the features that signal women's sexual difference from men, in particular the breasts, waists and hips".
She believes this may encourage children to have sex earlier.

The Australian (10-10-2006)
Caroline Overington


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