Infantilization, A Collection of Images

comments 5
culture / equality / human rights images / philosophy / photography and journalism

There’s something particularly reprehensible about infantilization. With all respect to children, but when you treat another adult like a child you actually say that she isn’t really an equal human being. Maybe you want to imply that she doesn’t have moral agency, that she’s not responsible for her actions, that she can or should be easily dominated (which is perhaps why some infantilizing images also have a sexual character, see below). Or maybe you imply that she is somewhat stupid or uneducated.

And I’m using the politically correct female pronoun for the other adult on purpose here, because it is usually women who are infantilized in our culture. Here are a few examples of female infantilization (I guess I don’t have to point to the sexual nature of most of them):

infantilization read books get brain

(source, complete with the thumb going to the mouth…)

batman spanking a woman


john wayne spanking

superman spanking

kiss me kate spanking

Reille Hunter is posed with Kermit the Frog, Barney the Dinosaur, and Dora the Explorer

Reille Hunter is posing with Kermit the Frog, Barney the Dinosaur, and Dora the Explorer


little red riding hood


infantilization of women




However, since it’s not just women who have to be kept down, it’s not just women who are infantilized either. There’s blacks of course:

infantilization of blacks


black infantilization watermelon




And Native Americans who, it seems, needed to learn to wash themselves:

uncle sam gives soap to indians


And the Chinese, maybe because they’re sooo small:



And, surprisingly, even the occasional white male:

male infantilization


And then there’s the opposite deviancy of pretending that children are adults, often female children, and often – again – in a sexual light:

child eroticism

(source unknown)

It’s all pretty sick.

More on the related subjects of paternalism, instrumentalization, objectification and animalization. More collections of images are here.


  1. David says

    Good collection of images, but they’re almost all super old. I would have loved to see pictures from the past five, ten years, because I’m sure they exist somewhere.

  2. whitmanmr says

    I agree with David’s comments. Furthermore, I’m not entirely sure what the claim it is you are making with these images. You mention that there is something “particularly reprehensible” about infantilization, but never exactly clarify that particular. Is it a claim to agency? To the existing power structures and how this process is used to keep the status quo in place? And what of the sexualization of images? What makes it deviant or “sick”? Inequalities exist on numerous levels for multitudes of individuals but what is it about infantilization that is specifically damning?

    • One thing that’s wrong about infantilization is that it’s a wholly avoidable form of inequality and a possible source of discrimination: when adults are depicted as children one can assume that one of the motives is taking away their responsibility, moral agency, equal standing in society, and, on account of this, their equal rights. It therefore serves as one among many means to perpetuate the subordination of certain groups, notably women. It used to be common to describe women as irresponsible and lacking moral agency. Now that this sentiment can’t be expressed as easily as before, we are seeing more subtler ways of saying the same thing,

  3. Pingback: Why Do We Need Human Rights? (31): Or Maybe We Don’t? – Exploring the “Dark Side” of Human Rights | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  4. ” It used to be common to describe women as irresponsible and lacking moral agency. Now that this sentiment can’t be expressed as easily as before…”

    Sure it can.

    As defenders of all societal, religious and cultural values by virtue of a mother’s first access to her child’s uncorrupted emotional slate, women have absolutely no control over their infantilization.To suggest that they do have agency would imply they were choosing to adopt infantile traits to exploit men. That can’t be right because women would never be malicious. So they absolutely cannot be thought to have agency or they’d be culpable.

    They absolutely cannot be thought to lack agency because that’s what the Patriarchy are trying to imply by forcing women to adopt infantile mannerisms and dress as well as forcing them to mimic infantile traits.

    So they cannot be thought to have agency and they cannot be thought not to have agency. Women are blameless. It’s men and children and girls who victimise women! OH LAWDY. Those poor, sweet angels.

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