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What do Children Represent?

  • Diana Gittins
Chapter

Abstract

A few years ago I went back to upstate New York and worked at a university where I taught a course on children and childhood. Early in the course I showed a series of slides, one of which was a picture of a girl prostitute in Taiwan sitting on a motorbike and smiling. The students were puzzled by this because, they said, they had always thought prostitution must be a sad and difficult way of life. ‘What makes you think it isn’t?’ I asked. Because she’s smiling, they replied. I spent the rest of the class — indeed, much of the rest of the course — trying to explain that photographic images — any images or representations, whether pictorial or written — are set up, constructed by someone, for someone with the intention of conveying a particular idea or impression. In whose interests was it, I suggested they consider, for her to be seen as smiling? We talked about the meaning of motorbikes and how they suggest speed, sexual excitement, youth, and how, as a means of transportation, they are cheap. Could those qualities also be applied to the girl? Where was the photo most apt to appear: in a soft porn magazine, a travel brochure or a family photograph album? Who, in other words, was looking at her through the camera and for what purpose?

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Notes

  1. 1.
    There was, however, protest about girls and women who worked underground in mines. See, for instance, Angela John’s (1980) By the Sweat of their Brow.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Diana Gittins 1998

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  • Diana Gittins

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