‘How many vulnerable girls will see this?’ Burberry under fire for ad featuring biological girl with double mastectomy

Evidently having learned nothing from Balenciaga, high-fashion designer Burberry has launched a woke ad campaign featuring same-sex, gender-fluid couples kissing and dancing along with one particularly jaw-dropping ad of a young, shirtless biological female with loads of tattoos and scars from a double mastectomy embracing what appears to be a young female with a shaven hairdo.

For Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, the “commercialization” of “gender dysphoria” is nothing short of “exploitation.”

In a scathing op-ed, Vine asks, “How many vulnerable girls will see this Burberry advert and think a double mastectomy is something to aspire to, like a new handbag?”

Vine recalls an early-1990s trend that started with American supermodel Gia Carangi and was popularized by fashion designer Calvin Klein and iconic model, Kate Moss. Back then, the grungy, emaciated look was known as “heroin chic.”

“It was an ‘edgy’ aesthetic that glorified and glamorised a nihilistic, hedonistic subculture,” Vine writes. “While etiolated, glassy-eyed waifs filled the catwalks with their bruised, stick-thin legs, the fashion houses grew fat on the cachet.”

It was all about the attitude, but that attitude came at a cost.

“[A] lot of people, including myself, were very uncomfortable with this,” says Vine. “We thought it weird and sick that fashion should glorify — perhaps even encourage — such things as substance abuse, addiction and eating disorders.”

Three decades later, Vine says, “it seems not very much has changed.”

“Fashion appears to be exploiting vulnerable people for profit,” she writes, “only this time it’s not drug use or eating disorders — but gender identity and trans culture.”

Vine continues:

Take a recent social media post from British brand Burberry. It features a heavily tattooed, topless trans man, his mastectomy scars proudly in evidence, embracing a partially shaven headed companion of indeterminate gender.

It’s a stark, rather grim photograph. Neither looks very happy. The red welts across the man’s chest look jagged and painful. The duo’s haircuts are raw and extreme. It is in every sense the opposite of a picture designed to showcase actual fashion.

Indeed, the clothes and jewellery are a mere afterthought in this impeccably woke, gender-fluid tableau of modern diversity.

Its only real function is to provoke: solidarity, confusion, shock, perhaps even anger. In my case, eye-rolling disbelief at the sheer levels of cynicism on display. Because I don’t think there’s anything sincere or real about this picture, just cultural vampirism.


“These people look to me like their situation is being exploited, not celebrated,” she states.

Not unlike the youth depicted in Balenciaga’s bondage ad.

“They — and their experience as individuals — are being used for no other reason than to burnish the brand’s woke credentials,” Vine argues.

“I understand that such things are important in the modern media landscape,” the British columnist writes. “But is gender dysphoria really an appropriate area for commercialisation? Is it right for a brand such as Burberry to seek to monetise — which is, of course, the purpose of advertising — the trauma and struggles of trans people? Burberry would argue that by showing such ‘inclusiveness’ it is supporting and validating trans people.”

“Respectfully,” she states, “I would argue the opposite.”

According to Vine, Burberry is engaging in “transploitation, pure and simple.”

“Far from offering validation” for the complexities of the trans experience, she says, the Burburry ad “diminishes it.”

“It’s a serious, difficult and often very traumatic process which deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness,” Vine writes, “not reduced to some cheap advertising campaign.”

And like the heroin chic days of yore, during which young girls became anorexic and turned to drugs, this ad campaign could inspire girls to make life-altering choices.

“How many vulnerable, impressionable young girls will see this and think a double mastectomy is something to aspire to, like a new pair of shoes or a handbag?” Vine asks. “It trivialises and cheapens an important, complex issue.”

“We all understand that high fashion is about pushing boundaries,” Vine acknowledges. “But there’s a fine line between provocation and exploitation.”

“The trans experience is not a vehicle for clothes advertising, just as eating disorders or mental health issues are not chic,” she states. “It’s high time the fashion industry took a long, hard look at itself — and took responsibility for what it’s peddling.”


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