Willow Smith's Photo With Shirtless 20-Year-Old in Bed Raises Issue of Double Standard
Willow Smith, the 13-year-old responsible for the legendary "Whip My Hair" video and the daughter of Will Smith and Jada-Pinkett Smith, is at the center of some controversy. She was pictured in a compromising position in an Instagram post by Hannah Montana actor Moises Aria: the photo shows a shirtless Aria, 20, sitting up on a bed, and Willow Smith lying down in front of him. Some think the photo is disgusting, others think it's harmless since Aria is a known family friend of the Smiths, but most people are wondering where parents Will and Jada stand on all of this. As for me, well, I'm a little conflicted.
At first, it seems like a wildly inappropriate photo (Aria later removed it from his Instagram account), but then I had to ask, "Wait, what's the big deal? He's a friend of the family." Then, moments later, I wondered, "But even if he is a friend of the family, does that make this okay?" And then I asked myself why I'm even thinking about this at all.
But something about it just seems icky, even though we don't want to believe any harm was done. The fact stands that Smith is only 13, and even though she is a celebrity and a public figure, she is, first and foremost, a child. Child actors and models are forced to grow up quickly, and sometimes when they act more mature than their age, it can cross a line.
In the fashion industry, for example, youth is coveted obsessively and frequently put on display. Lindsey Wixson, one of the most famous supermodels on the scene right now, became the face of Miu Miu when she was only 16-years-old. Karlie Kloss, who's 21 and a Victoria's Secret Angel, started working the runways when she was 15. And Kendall Jenner, who is also apparently friends with Aria, is taking the fashion world by storm: she walked in Chanel's show earlier this year and was even invited to the Met Costume Gala. She just turned 18.
So what makes Smith's photo with Aria more disturbing than these other instances of young women so publicly on display? Is it because Smith "looks" more childlike than, say, Kloss or Wixson? Is it that the daughter of celebrities is held to a different standard? Is it because Aria is shirtless? Is a provocative fashion campaign more acceptable because it's staged, whereas Aria's Instagram was candid and personal?
There's a blind spot it seems, for other young celebrities who pose provocatively, but there shouldn't be. Maybe the Instagram photo Aria posted is of an innocent interaction, but the outcry it has provoked makes me question what our double standards are when we determine what is and isn't appropriate for young girls.
So far, Smith's parents haven't commented on the photo, but they have said in the past, "We don't do punishment." To be fair though, would any good parent's impulse be to punish their 13-year-old in this situation? Maybe criticizing Willow for the Instagram photo isn't the right move here, but those moments probably shouldn't be shared on social media. And if we're going to speculate about the nature of Smith's photo, we have to hold the fashion industry to the same standard — if it's okay for 15, 16, and 17-year-old girls to be the faces of Prada and Miu Miu, where is the line drawn?
Aren't they kids, too?