The provocative Time Magazine cover of a three-year old child standing on a chair and sucking on his mother’s breast is yet another example of child exploitation masquerading as creative advertising. We’ve seen this before, with Abercrombie and Fitch’s sexually suggestive images of teenagers in their marketing campaigns, and Calvin Klein’s infamous ads using 15 year-old Brooke Shields.
I get it that sex sells but we need to draw a line at sexualizing our children for corporate profit. This is not an image of a child being lovingly breastfed by his devoted parent. The unfortunate youngster is being held against his mom’s breast as she looks away in a defiant manner. The headline of “Are you Mom Enough?” underscores a message of arrogance rather than nurturing.
What was the photographer thinking? “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation,” remarked photographer Martin Schoeller. Here’s my translation of that gibberish. “Provocative and offensive photographs sell magazines, and my picture got people like you buying the magazine and giving me attention.”
There are several victims of this photograph, with my greatest concern being for this young child. Remember that this image lives in internet eternity and will follow this boy forever. Perhaps he will eventually be proud of his mom’s parenting convictions, but it’s hard to imagine how this photo will cause him anything but grief through his childhood and teen years.
The second victim of this cover is the article on Attachment Theory. I think it will be difficult for readers to give serious consideration to any parenting approach associated with such an offensive photograph. I’m not an advocate of this style of parenting, but I do think it’s worthy of our discussion. The approach appears to place children’s needs for physical and emotional engagement with their parents as the primary directive that influences everything from extended breastfeeding to sleeping in the same room with your child. It’s easy to criticize such ideas as silly and impractical. It is yet another philosophy that puts children’s desires as the highest priority, without much consideration of parents’ personal and marital needs.
However, this is a thoughtful article worthy of your consideration. The ways we raise our children today are due more to habit and contemporary cultural norms, not immutable scientific facts. You can become a better parent by considering the views of others who challenge our conventional ways of thinking.
As child advocates, let’s protest Time magazine’s exploitation of children. As parents, read the article and see if it can help make you a better mom and dad.