There is no law regulating the management of child beauty pageants, according to the Attorney General of the Department of Justice in California. In this, the activity is exempted from the federal child labour laws and participants are not considered in labour although they do receive prizes and awards. The participants aren’t considered in labour despite receiving rewards for their performances. Since beauty pageants function individually, they set their own rules and differ in operation. There are those pageants which are sponsored but are very strict in requirements while there are those which let the participants spend for the costs. Since pageants are after all pure business, organizers’ main purpose is to earn and are unconcerned with the protection of the personal matters of children. (Nussbaum, 2000) Since there are no rules set, should child beauty pageants be vilified because of the issue that the activity causes harm to children when they are in fact not technically responsible for the said damage?
Exploitation of Children in Child Beauty Pageants
Child beauty pageants may be viewed as an exemplary site for proving the ongoing issue of exploitation of children in the modern society. This is not to say that all child beauty pageants have the exploitation aspect and that exploitation is limited to beauty pageants only for there are other activities designed for children such as dance and sports, where parents push their children into the spotlight to gain acknowledgement and fame. Stage parents may equally be as intense into encouraging their children into such activity. Cartwright (2012) refers to the idea where adults push their children into activities that makes them obtain social or financial gains regardless of the risk as “Princess by Proxy distortion”.
In a video documentary courtesy of the hit American reality series Toddlers and Tiaras, Ava, a 5-year old girl participating in a high-glitz pageant, was forced to overcome her fear of heights in preparation for her talent showcase. The overcoming of heights included having the child hang on a trapeze with the supervision of professionals. The child ended up wailing and pleading to be taken off the trapeze but the mother still insisted because she believes that it will help her child. This scenario depicted by the documentary is a concrete example of the risks taken by children insisted by their parents in order to do well in their performance to win or the “Achievement by Proxy Distortion” the general form of “Princess by Proxy Distortion” where stage parents are driven mainly by the rewards their children attain when participating in such activity. (Cartwright, 2012)
Furthermore, an example of the risks taken by stage parents undergoing the “Achievement by Proxy Distortion” is when they force children into taking unhealthful amounts of sugar also known as “pageant crack” and caffeine. These two are commonly used to maintain the high energy of participants throughout the pageant especially that the event is usually held at night. Martina Cartwright discusses the health effects of pageant cracks and caffeine throughout her narration:
Short term sugar consumption can lead to issues with tooth decay if not properly addressed. Short term sugar intake does temporarily raise blood sugar but doesn´t cause diabetes. The bigger concern is long term, not from a calorie standpoint, but from an emotional-food connection. Adult stress and emotional eaters learn to associate certain foods with comfort and relief of stress and possibly reward if the behaviour is done repeatedly. For example, repeatedly giving a child sugar for performing well might cause the child to associate the sugar with good feelings. The chemistry in the brain might actually change such that a “high” is achieved each time the award is provided. Long-term overuse of high sugar drinks and candy may lead to poor dietary choices and possibly obesity....
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