I was very worried at first about writing this paper because I could not decide on a specific topic and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write 3 to 4 pages on it. After writing the paper I probably would not include as much background information on the child beauty pageants so that I had more space left for the topic I was writing on. I also may have chosen an even more specific topic concerning these beauty pageants so that I would have been able to go into more detail about the psychological effects during and after children participate in the beauty pageants. I definitely could have continued to write on the topic that I chose had we not been given a limit on the number of pages.
I chose this topic because I wanted something that I believe society’s views has affected. We have already talked so much about violence in the media and entertainment so I wanted to choose something at the other end of the spectrum. I have always found this topic to be disturbing after watching a few episodes of TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. I wanted to choose a topic that I felt passionate about so that I was able to put my all into the paper.
My other main concern for writing this paper is that I would not be able to find enough references to use. Especially one’s that I could use to out of our book that could specifically identify with the topic at hand. After I choose my topic and started researching and quickly found that this was not the case. There are many resources that share the same view as I and a lot more studies than I would have expected. Once again my only regret is that I ran out of pages. I would have liked to use more of these resources and been able to quote more of what they had to say. I would have liked to have more room to show how some of what was said by the authors in our book pertained to this subject.
I hope that you enjoy this paper and are able to relate to my views.
A child beauty pageant is defined as a beauty contest featuring contestants including and younger than 18 years of age. Divisions include but are not limited to talent, interview, sportswear, casual wear, swim wear, western wear, theme wear, outfit of choice, decade wear, and evening wear. These competitions typically include the child wearing makeup and elaborate hairstyles. These children are judged on things ranging from looks, poise and perfection to capability and confidence. Beauty pageants were started in Canada in 1921. They came from an idea that an Atlantic City hotel owner had that it would help boost tourism. Since then interest in these pageants has grown considerably. It has also become an increasingly lucrative business that grosses about a billion dollars a year. (Child Beauty Pageant) You would think with all of the fuss over these pageants that there would be laws set to regulate them, but surprisingly there are not. Except for laws that regulate child education these pageants have no governing over them. The contestants are not considered to be working (even though they are forced to practice hours upon hours weekly) so they are exempt from any child labor laws. (Child Beauty Pageant) There are many variations of rules for each pageant because they are all different. The one rule that seems to withstand throughout all is that you must provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate when entering. Why? Because so many mothers were registering older children in a younger age group so that their child could look more mature and sophisticated. (Nussbaum) So what exactly do these children go through to be able to participate? In addition to all of the practicing they must do, they must have their hair done (lasting almost two hours), makeup (an hour), fittings for dresses, traveling long rides in the car, all of the other time consuming tasks they must endure in order to “perfect” themselves, etc. All of this to spend about 90 seconds on stage, when did these kids stop being allowed to be kids? And what do the families put into these pageants? Travel and lodging expenses, entry fees that at times can come close to $1000, paying for a professional hair and makeup artist if they cannot perfect it on their own, paying for a “pageant coach” if the stage mother is unable to do it on her own, clothing (dresses ranging from $200 to $6000, depending on the designer), and do not forget about all of the other things such a jewelry, accessories, and spray tans. Some families have even gone into debt or lost their homes after spending all of their time and money on these pageants. (Nussbaum, Child Beauty Pageants) This brings me to my next question, what is the reasoning given by mothers for putting their children through this? According to most mothers it is to benefit their children. The top benefits cited are to boost their child’s self-esteem, to teach poise and confidence, or for them to have fun, because they like it, or because she is beautiful. Then there are the answers that you hear from mother’s when they are off the record or know that no one important is around; for the money, because she has to be number one, etc. How can this be beneficial to a child’s psychological development? (Child Beauty Pageants, Grosaru) Many articles have been written on the subject of the mental health effects on children that compete in these pageants once they grow up and the sexualization of these children at the times they are competing. A lot of attention was brought to this when a show aired on TLC called Toddlers and Tiaras. It was a series that went behind the scenes of these pageants. There was also a show aired on Vh1 called Little Beauties. These shows give a view into this world and in my opinion they are able to show viewers how damaging these “fun-filled” pageants can really be. Kate Ward sums it up when describing Little Beauties as saying, “a group of mom’s jumpstarted their young daughters’ body-image issues by making them wear ‘flippers’- fake teeth to hide the gaps that normal girls have from losing their baby teeth- and encouraging them to go on stage and bat their eyelashes at adult male judges.” (Ward) I can relate this to some of the points that Levy was trying to make in her article about how society’s view on women (in this case girls) has changed and sexualiztion of these persons has become much more accepted. At times is even expected. Levy states, “…this trend has only grown more extreme and more pervasive in the years that have passed since I first became aware of it. A tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular.” (146) When entered in these pageants girls are dressed in next to nothing, loaded with pounds of makeup, wearing high heels and behaving in ways that we would expect a grown woman to when she is trying to entice a male. It seems as if society has accepted these young girls as being “cute” in the way they are dressed (yes, dressed, it is not the children choosing their attire it is their mothers or coaches) and perform. Harris says many things relating to this in his article. “Cuteness, in short, is not something we find in our children but something we do to them.” (136) Adults are the ones that are portraying this to our young children. We have talked in this chapter about how things that are depicted on TV and the internet influence us and our children. Most, jump to the argument of violence. Why is this not just as damaging? There was a study published in 2005 that compared women who had competed in beauty pageants as children to women who had not competed. They were compared in several different areas such as BMI, age and overall body satisfaction. The results mostly showed that the women who had competed when younger were less satisfied with their bodies. These women also had greater impulse disregulation and trust issues. (Child Beauty Pageant) This can come from mothers telling them that the other girls were not their friend, thus, turning all aspects of competition into a blatant reality instead of something done just for fun or to help the girls feel good about themselves. Anxiety can be another psychological effect these pageants have on young girls. (Grosaru) If you know you have to do something but know that you are not very good at it or are not comfortable with is what are you going to feel? Anxious or embarrassed. I am sure not all of these girls are comfortable getting up on stage performing dance and singing routines or flaunting themselves to the crowd when they are in all actuality just shy little girls that would rather be at home playing in the yard with friends. I can understand that mothers are proud parents and what to show off their little ones to the world, but it seems to me that these pageants have taken over their little one’s childhood. All this does is leave them with emotional issues to be dealt with as they get older when they are only able to remember the hair and makeup, being carted from one hotel to another, all the while trying to be perfect and better that every other little girl they meet. They should be able to think back on all the childhood memories they made and friends they met. Society needs to wake up and stop doing this to our youth before they are the generation that runs the show and we are in complete turmoil because they have been trained to look down upon everyone and use their looks to get what they want.
“Child Beauty Pageant.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. www.wikipedia.org. n.d. Web. 2/2/2011 Grosaru, Lucia. “Toddlers and children beauty pageants – Risk factors for severe psychological turmoils.” Psychological Corner. 7 Sept. 2009. Web. 2/2/2011. Harris, Daniel. “Cuteness”. Acting Out Culture: Reading and Writing. Ed. James S. Miller. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2008. 134-142. Print. Levy, Ariel. “Women and the Rise of Ranch Culture”. Acting Out Culture: Reading and Writing. Ed. James S. Miller. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 144-146. Print. Nussbaum, Kareen. “Children and Beauty Pageants.” A Minor Consideration. n.d. Web. 2/2/2011. Ward, Kate. “TLC’s toddler beauty-pageant series: Gross!” EW.com, n.d. Web. 2/2/2011.