Where is the outrage over Balenciaga’s embrace of child pornography?

Bella Hadid
Bella Hadid departs after the Balenciaga Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-2023 fashion collection presented Wednesday, July 6, 2022 in Paris. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

Where is the outrage over Balenciaga’s embrace of child pornography?

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Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga is too good for Kanye West but not too good to promote child pornography.

After West’s (now Ye) recent antisemitic outburst, the hundred-year-old luxury fashion house was quick to distance itself from the off-the-rails rapper. But one month later, it found itself in a public relations nightmare of its own making, thanks to an ad campaign that appears to support — you guessed it — child pornography.

In photos for Balenciaga’s gift collection campaign, young children pose with teddy bears in what appears to be BDSM gear. And, lest you think this is all just a horribly stupid accident, hidden among a stack of papers in photos for the spring campaign is the Supreme Court’s United States v. Williams opinion, which upheld a federal law prohibiting child pornography in advertising even if the content doesn’t specifically constitute “child pornography.” Wow, I wonder if there’s a connection here.

BALENCIAGA SUES COMPANY FOR $25 MILLION OVER AD FEATURING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY RULING: REPORT

In a rare showing of outrage that cuts across political divides, onlookers of all ideological stripes began lambasting the campaigns online. Balenciaga swiftly pulled the photos — and then complained that the appearance of the pornography case wasn’t the brand’s fault, going so far as to sue the production company it hired to shoot the spring campaign for $25 million.

Balenciaga is arguing that because the BDSM bears and the pornography case were featured in separate campaigns (even though they were released around the same time), there is no connection between the two, and some rogue actor at the offending production company slipped the Supreme Court document in without the brand noticing.

“We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in the narrative,” the brand said in a statement, now the only post on its Instagram account. Before blaming the United States v. Williams paper on third parties involved in the campaign, Balenciaga at least took the blame for the children posing with sexualized teddy bears: “This was a wrong choice by Balenciaga, combined with our failure in assessing and validating images.”

But perhaps worse than the controversy itself and Balenciaga’s outrageous attempt to pass the buck is the fact that very few celebrities have said anything about it. We normal people were outraged, sure. But the millionaire actors and models who are so quick to comment on any other form of perceived injustice? Not so much.

Nicole Kidman and supermodel Bella Hadid, who also starred in Balenciaga’s spring campaign, have been notably silent. Mother of four Kim Kardashian, who benefits from a multimillion-dollar Balenciaga deal, took days to respond, finally saying, “I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been shocked and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened.”

As one account put it, “translation: I have a s*** ton of custom Balenciaga looks on order and I can’t not wear them lol.”

Kardashian followed up by saying she is “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand, “basing it off their willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with — & the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

Luckily, not every celebrity has piles of Balenciaga in their closet, and some were much quicker to condemn the brand.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp tweeted, “To try to be a voice for our children, who rely on the protection of the men and women that were entrusted the responsibility of nurturing them and raising them up: please make yourself aware of the attack against our young ones by @balenciaga, and ensure that they are held responsible for it!”

Country artist RaeLynn responded by taking a Sharpie to her Balenciaga sneakers, crossing out the name of the brand and writing “protect children” above it. She promised to auction off the pair of shoes and donate the proceeds to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that combats child trafficking.

There’s nothing highly unusual about high-fashion scandals, but rarely is one this egregious. When will all the celebrities who spoke out in favor of Black Lives Matter and Palestine and abortion access comment on this? Not until they can be sure it won’t harm a source of income — or a source of designer clothes.

But more than that, it’s just not the kind of social outrage that scores points. As Louise Perry writes in The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, “there is something about pedophilia anxiety that is currently considered rather low status among the liberal elites.”

If speaking out on this social issue won’t inspire applause from the liberal media bubble, why bother?

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