Imagine a girl strutting across a stage in high heels, short skirt, and tank top. Makeup airbrushed onto her smooth, spray-tanned face, red lipstick, and cascading blond curls make her look like a Barbie doll. She starts dancing to risque music in a promiscuous way. Would you believe that this girl is only two-years-old? Would you be shocked to know that she has been acting and dressing this way since she was a baby? Many young girls are subjected by their parents to act and dress this way to compete against other girls to win money and other prizes.
These girls start in pageants at only a few days old and sometimes keep entering pageants into adult-hood. Others still are “retired” from pageants to pursue modeling at as young as six-years-old. It is widely accepted that materialism, vanity, and “skinny equals pretty” ideas go against moral codes. It is also universally accepted that children should be allowed to enjoy a care-free childhood full of fun and learning; not the pressure of winning a crown, money for their parents, and looking like a doll.
The TLC reality show, “Toddlers & Tiaras,” is a good representation of why children’s beauty pageants are wrong because it shows that the pageants teach materialism and vanity, promote “skinny equals pretty,” and force girls to grow up too quickly which are all poor characteristics to enforce on young girls just for prizes and titles. Children’s beauty pageants are wrong because they teach materialism and vanity at an extremely early age. In season four of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” three-year-old Olivia showed just how materialistic and spoiled a pageant makes young girls.
Not only does she smart off to her mother, Karey, without consequence frequently, but she is quoted in one episode for shouting, “I want the crown! ” Karey told TLC that “Olivia has only been in four or five pageants, but now we better leave with a crown or she’s gonna have a meltdown. ” Instead of punishing her child for that sort of behavior, Karey instead feels that she needs to give her everything that she wants in order to keep her from getting angry or aggressive. The point of a pageant is to win a shiny crown, money, and other prizes.
Putting a young girl like Olivia through pageants that force competition for material items could only result in the spoiled attitude Karey receives from her daughter. According to some body image experts, these children that are subjected to the pageants will eventually become obsessed with their body image, making them more likely to develop eating disorders and desire plastic surgery. “‘You see a high rate of dissatisfaction with their looks when they are older,’ says Dr. Martina Cartwright, a psychologist and nutritionist who has worked with professional dancers. There are unrealistic expectations to be perfect. They strive to be flawless, and they can take that too far’” (Triggs). While the general image of a beautiful girl is one who embraces her flaws and is beautiful because of them, the idea of beauty pageants is to make little girls perfect. Along with airbrush makeup, girls wear wigs and hair pieces from as young of an age as one year. Not only do they wear makeup, wigs, hair pieces, and get spray tans, but their parents buy things called “flippers. ” Flippers are dental prosthetics that cover up gaps in teeth left by missing baby teeth (Hollandsworth).
These things are teaching girls from an extremely young age that beauty is entirely external and that one is only beautiful when flawless. If there are flaws on a pageant girl’s body, she is taught to repair the flaws with surgery, faux teeth, and other vanities instead of recognizing her flaws and being proud of them. Learning this from a young age causes girls to grow up extremely self-conscious. “Skinny equals pretty” ideas are another basis of the immoral function children’s beauty pageants hold.
They are the ideas of women who firmly believe that one must be size 0 to be beautiful. These ideas are endorsed by many ad campaigns for anything from fashion and makeup to beer and cars. In another episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” eleven-year-old Sydney tries on her dress for an upcoming pageant. Her mother, Marlo, tightens a corset lace in the back of the dress to the point that Sydney can barely breathe. When she complains about the lack of air-flow, Marlo merely says, “It doesn’t matter if you can breathe or not; it only matters if you look beautiful! According to research done on the connection between children’s beauty pageants and eating disorders in the summer of 2005, “Of the 131 females who participated in beauty pageant contests, 48. 5% reported a desire to be thinner, 57% stated they were trying to lose weight, and 26% had been told or were believed to have an eating disorder” (Wonderlich). The media have told people for many generations that in order to be beautiful, one must be skinny. These pressures to be skinny that the media have placed on society have forced many females, young and old, into eating disorders.
It is estimated that seven million American women and one million American men are currently suffering from an eating disorder. Not only do the eating disorders caused by low self-esteem make one extremely unhealthy, they are known to have the highest mortality rate among mental illnesses. “A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover.
The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old (South Carolina Department of Mental Health). ” With all of this risk of death by eating disorders for young women and men, it is easy to blame the media for stereotyping “beauty. ” However, these beauty pageants that have been in many children’s lives for years cause many of the self-esteem issues that end in these deadly eating disorders.
Furthermore, “Toddlers & Tiaras” shows how children’s beauty pageants force girls to grow up too quickly, which is wrong, because children should be able to live a care-free, fun childhood without the stress and demands of adult life. In a different episode of the TLC reality show “Toddlers & Tiaras,” eighteen-month-old Brystol finally becomes old enough to wear makeup and hair pieces in pageants. This episode shows Brystol being introduced to airbrush makeup, lipstick, and hair pieces. In yet another episode of the show, four-year-old Karley and six-year-old Kylie receive spray tans from their mother in preparation for pageants.
When Karley and Kylie’s mother threatens to put the spray tan can away if Karley refuses to stand still for her spray, Karley throws a tantrum because she knew that the spray tan was cold, but she did not want her mother to put it away because she wanted to be “tan and beautiful. ” All of these instances show how the beauty pageants that these young girls are put through by their mothers force them to grow up too quickly, because they show that the young girls are being forced by their parents to partake in activities normally fit for a much older woman.
Usually we are told by our mothers to wait until we are in our teens before we wear makeup or get hair extensions. We are told that we are too young for skimpy outfits or spray tans. To see a baby getting makeup put on her in order to win a beauty pageant is sickening. In another episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” four-year-old Maddy wears padding for fake breasts and butt in order to act as Dolly Parton for an upcoming pageant. In the same episode, two-year-old Paisley dresses as Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” wearing knee-high black boots, a skimpy cut-out dress, and wig.
In an 80s themed pageant two-year-old Mia was dressed as Madonna, complete with cone-shaped bustier. Many of the young pageant girls are encouraged to wink, wiggle their hips, and blow kisses at the judges of pageants. Though they do not necessarily realize that these actions are seductive, this may be part of the problem. Deborah Tolman, Ed. D. , a Hunter College professor and author, explained that, “Focusing so much on how you look is problematic. Instead of focusing on how she feels – which is an important skill growing up – a girl learns to sexualize herself.
Your body is a compass, and premature sexuality takes the arrow out of the compass” (Hollandsworth). A young woman needs to be able to discover her sexuality, limits, and mature slowly. Forcing her to become a sexual item causes a young girl to mature too quickly, not allowing her to discover who she is sexually. Forcing her to become a sexual item at such an early age, can make it feel like a normal thing, perhaps causing her to feel like she needs to be a sex item for the rest of her life in order to get what she wants and succeed.
Some parents of young pageant queens argue that pageants are just games of “dress-up with mommy” that have more benefits, such as prizes, money, or titles. However, this excerpt from an article featured in “People” magazine explains that this is not the case: But child development experts point to a difference between playing dress-up and making a career out of it. “Little girls are supposed to play with dolls, not be dolls,” says Mark Sichel, a New York-based licensed clinical social worker, who calls the extreme grooming common at pageants “a form of child abuse. Playing dress-up “is normal and healthy, but when it’s demanded, it leaves the child not knowing what they want,” he says. Accentuating their appearance with such accoutrements as fake hair, teeth, spray tans and breast padding “causes the children tremendous confusion, wondering why they are not okay without those things (Triggs). There is a difference between putting a “pretty dress” on one’s daughter and oneself and having a tea party with dolls, and putting makeup, fake hair, breasts, and teeth onto one’s daughter make her into the doll in order to win prizes and money.
Another argument is that children want to be in pageants, they are not forced. However, how can a few days’ old baby choose to be dressed up in frilly dresses and pranced around a stage? Children get their decisions made for them from birth by their parents until they grow old enough to make wise choices. However, if a child’s parents have her participating in beauty pageants since birth, the pageants become ritual and the child believes them to be part of everyday life. How is this giving a child free-will to choose whether or not to be a part of the glamorous world of pageantry?
When the bad aspects of children’s pageants are combined, it seems that the big problem most people have with pageants is the sexualization of children. However, is the sexualization everyone is focused on really just the result of pageants? Peggy Orenstein, journalist and author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, does not think so. “In 1996, when JonBenet was murdered, it was shocking for us to see a 6-year-old wearing lipstick and eye shadow.
Now, market research studies have found nearly half of today’s 6- to 9-year-olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss. Walmart launched a makeup line just for girls 8 to 12. Abercrombie & Fitch marketed a padded push-up bikini top for 8-year-olds. It’s easy to slam pageants, but maybe that’s because no one wants to deal with the bigger picture, which is the daytoday sexualization of all our daughters. (Hollandsworth)” Though the horrors of pre-maturity and eating disorders seem like enough reason to rid the country of children’s pageants, it seems that the sexualization of the children is the worst of it all.
Not only could this cause problems for the girls later on in life, but it has potential as a form of child abuse. Works Cited Wonderlich, Anna, Diann Ackard, and Judith Henderson. “Childhood Beauty Pageant Contestants: Associations With Adult Disordered Eating And Mental Health. ” Eating Disorders 13. 3 (2005): 291-301. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. Triggs, Charlotte, Kay West, and Elaine Aradillas. “Toddlers & Tiaras TOO MUCH TOO SOON? (Cover Story). ” People 76. 12 (2011): 160-168. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. HOLLANDSWORTH, SKIP. Toddlers In Tiaras. ” Good Housekeeping 252. 8 (2011): 150-194. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. Lexton, Lauren, prod. Toddlers & Tiaras. The Learning Channel. Winter 2009. Television. Giroux, Henry A. “Nymphet Fantasies CHILD BEAUTY PAGEANTS AND THE POLITICS OF INNOCENCE. ” Social Text 16. 4 (1998): 31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. South Carolina Department of Mental Health. “Eating Disorder Statistics. ” South Carolina Department of Mental Health. 2006. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. <http://www. state. sc. us/dmh/anorexia/statistics. htm>.