Fashion brand Balenciaga is facing intense backlash over a recent ad campaign featuring young children and bondage-clad teddy bears. Now the mark seeks to atone and seeks our forgiveness in the process. But as more and more details emerge, many are asking the question: why the hell do they deserve it?
Since Tuesday, the brand has released not one but two separate apologies for the scandal. “We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,” read a first post on Balenciaga’s Instagram. “Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.”
But it wasn’t just the teddy bears. The BDSM-themed marketing campaign featured not only young children, but also copies of Williams v. United States Supreme Court of 2002, which dealt with the distribution of child pornography. Another image from the campaign featured the name of a convicted pedophile.
Hence the second apologies, in which Balenciaga announced that it would pursue legal action against those involved.
How Balenciaga intends to take legal action against itself remains a mystery.
The whole story is deeply disturbing. How could an advertisement promoting the sexualization of children be illuminated by hundreds, even thousands of people involved in a massive advertising campaign by a brand like Balenciaga?
It’s horrible. Yet, unfortunately, this is not surprising, given the climate in which we find ourselves. Because the truth is that Balenciaga doesn’t apologize because they’re sorry. They apologize because they did something they thought was right for their consumers and found out too late that it wasn’t. And they thought that would be totally fine because so many cues from left-wing culture conveyed that.
I often catch myself these days thinking of Nelson Mandela’s comment that the true character of a society is revealed in the way it treats its children. What does it say about our society that we expose young children to drag shows before they are old enough to even understand what they are witnessing? What does it say about our society that we allow young children to undergo physical changes to their bodies before they are old enough to understand the lifelong consequences of the choices they are about to make ?
What does it say about our society that we sexualize young children so often and so acceptingly that a major fashion brand thought they could just get away with selling handbags? hand ?
Balenciaga got caught, but perhaps as bad as the ad campaign was the fact that they were surprised that it wouldn’t fly.
And now they are not looking for forgiveness or grace.
It’s ironic because there was no mercy for Kanye West after a series of controversial comments. Balenciaga cut ties with Kanye without thinking twice. Balenciaga was also one of the first to signal virtue by deleting its Twitter account following the tech giant’s acquisition by Elon Musk.
“Balenciaga seems to be eliminating problematic people from his life,” applauded Fortune.
How ironic that it was Elon Musk who made Twitter’s crackdown on child pornography “Priority #1” when Balenciaga is there to create it.
Balenciaga asks for our forgiveness but they don’t deserve it. Balenciaga asks for sponsorship. They shouldn’t have it. Balenciaga asks for our pardon. They never gave it, nor did they deserve it.
The way we treat our children reveals the true character of a society. The same goes for how we protect them. This is where we can start: by treating Balenciaga with the rigor with which he treated others, and by sending a loud and clear message that it is not acceptable to treat children in this way.
CJ Pearson is the president of the Free Thinker Project.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.