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Inside the Living Dolls’ World: the Ugly Truth About Child Beauty Pageants

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Topics: Beauty contest
Inside the Living Dolls’ World:
The Ugly Truth about Child Beauty Pageants

A stage full of dolled-up or Barbie-like little girls who with their fabulous mini gowns or dresses, or tiny swimsuits being worn, walk that stage flashing a million dollar smile on their little faces with all the poise and projection, judges eyeing them, an audience applauding and with their pushy parents cheering for them at the corner. That would be a typical child beauty pageant scene. Basically, a beauty pageant is an assemblage of girls or women at which judges select the most beautiful (Cartwright, 2011). Beauty pageants mainly are divided into categories such as the talent portion, the modeling portion and the personal interview or the question and answer portion. Beauty pageant winners are so-called beauty queens and awards for these beauty contests include titles, tiaras or crowns, sashes, and cash prizes. Indeed today, beauty pageants for young girls are gaining more and more popularity. However, it has not only attracted popularity, but howls of criticisms too. I truly believe that beauty pageants are exploitative and detrimental to the child’s overall well-being in a way that it damages the child’s health, it exposes the child to the danger of pedophiles/being in public eye and lastly it instills a message to the child that physical beauty is the primary judge of one’s character therefore reducing one’s self-worth to appearances. Although some people say that beauty pageants are not necessarily a bad thing, knowing that just like about everything else- there are the good and bad aspects. And to realize the big picture behind every thought, we have to examine both. Let us start with what all that is good about these child beauty pageants. First, they say that child beauty pageants promote self esteem and can be an instant confidence builder for the child. It is beneficial to the child’s self esteem in a way that it helps the child to step out of her comfort zone and overcome her shyness. This gives the child the confidence she needs to showcase her talents as well as her communication or public speaking abilities. Gaining poise and confidence is cited most often by parents as the reason for joining their child in these contests (Levey, 2000). The second one has something to do with camaraderie or friendly competition. They say that these pageants can teach the child the aspects of rules and fair play. They claim that competing with others can train the children to be gracious winners as well as good losers. Also, beauty pageants, they say, are meant to make the child realize and understand that there is a competition out there and that joining a beauty pageant is one means to preparing her to face the challenges in order to succeed in the future. Third is that these beauty pageants can be considered as a beneficial way for those who are experiencing a financial downside, because more often, winners of these pageants are given academic scholarships or financial grants. This in turn can minimize the family’s expenses for the child’s schooling in an academic year, a great help for those families who are financially challenged.
The things mentioned above may have sounded good for us to deem that beauty pageants can be somehow acceptable by society; however I think that those are not enough for us to immediately consider joining the fad of beauty pageants. Now let us remove the sugarcoating of these so-called beauty pageants so that we may be able to see clearly the ugly truth about this beauty pageant world. First and foremost, these child beauty pageants damage the child’s health, for it can cause cognitive, physical, and psychological problems to the child (American Psychological Association, 2007). A lot of child advocates and psychologists have already spoken out against child beauty pageants and claim that these pageants are not in the best interest of healthy child development. According to William Pinsof, a clinical psychologist and president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University, “Being a little Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image.” Another claim was that of Dr. Ruth Schmidt Neven, a psychotherapist and psychologist who said that beauty pageants transform children into “pedophiliac fantasies” and should be illegal. Others have also called out for these beauty pageants to be outlawed. Other health problems that a good number of girls experience because of these pageants include paranoia, anxiety, and feelings of inferiority, anorexia, bulimia, poor self-esteem, depression and a countless number of more issues (Cartwright, 2011). Given these health-related problems, who in the world would risk their child to join pageants and acquire these problems that may soon manifest as long term disorders in life? Pageants definitely have a negative impact on the child. Pageants can cause kids to suffer numerous issues upon growing up and more likely those issues the child faces can be fatal.
Another downbeat would be about the fact that children are being exposed to the danger of pedophiles or being in the public eye. Such as in the case of a former American child beauty queen, Jon Benet Ramsey who was only 6 when she was brutally murdered in 1996. This so-called “Jon Benet factor” is most likely the primary reason why some parents do not allow their child to participate in such pageants, and this murder has attracted so much media attention that it has made pageants socially unacceptable to many people (Levey, 2000). Letting the child join beauty pageants is like putting her all in for a public display, along with putting her life too in jeopardy. The last one has to deal with beauty pageants being responsible for the sexualisation of young girls. It also promotes a materialistic belief in them and it enforces the message that looks or physical beauty today- is the currency of one’s true beauty. Henry Samuel said in Britain Telegraph that French lawmakers want an all-out ban on child pageants, accusing the media and its other forms for promoting stereotypes that transform young girls into “sexual morsels.” Just look at the growing number of school girls as young as 8 who wear padded bras, high heels, or makeup and strike suggestive poses. Children because of beauty pageants are adultified, sexualized and judged by an adult defined, narrow beauty ideal. They are deprived of their childhood and make them eager to grow up. They get to wear sexual outfits and act inappropriately for their age. These young girls with every pageant also have to wear pounds of makeup, false lashes, have the hair on their skins waxed, wear high heels, which basically, are not designed for small feet; some also have to wear fake hair and even fake teeth. Shockingly, one mother even injects her eight year old child Botox from time to time all in the name of beauty pageants. Good news is, that mother has now lost custody over her child. With all these being done, contestants of child beauty pageants may develop a misconception of life and beauty as they grow up. They may think that only physical attributes matter and that it is the primary judge of one’s self-worth or character. It has something to do also with the child’s self-esteem. Pageants can damage the self-esteem of a young girl when things do not go as she would hope (Nussbaum, 1998). What will a mother tell her three year old daughter if the little girl says that she did not win because she is not beautiful enough? In the end, although some parents believe that it is a great idea for their children to join beauty pageants because it can promote self-esteem, healthy competition and say that it is a great way for their children to gain confidence that will help their child to become socially acceptable, the good things that it brings still do not outweigh the negative things or the consequences that a child can obtain through joining beauty pageants. Because the truth is, pageants can damage the child’s health, may it be physical or psychological. It also exposes the child to the public and therefore risking the child’s safety. Lastly, it promotes the objectification and sexualisation of such young girls which is highly inappropriate and it can also lead the child to the conclusion that physical beauty is the primary judge of one’s character and that her self-worth is only based on what she got from the outcome of the competition. Those parents who are mainly responsible for pressurizing their child to join such absurd beauty pageants must ask this question within themselves, are the long term damaging effects that the child can get from joining these pageants worth the prize? As for me, a big no. I suggest that beauty pageants must be limited to only those who are already mature and old enough to make the decisions themselves of joining with full consent and when they are more emotionally capable of handling the negative emotional pressure or self esteem impacts one can get from joining such pageants. Because for little girls, it is better for them to just stick playing with their Barbie dolls. They still have a lot more drinking of milk to do.

References:
Bubac, H. (2012, November 11). Child Beauty Pageants: Excellent or Exploitive?. Retrieved from http://english1100portfolio.blogspot.com/2012/12/child-beauty-pageants-excellent-or.html Cromie, W. (2000, June 8). The whys and woes of beauty pageants. Retrieved from http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2000/006.08/beauty.html Maliakal, L. (2013, February 7). Child Beauty pageants: Pros and Cons. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/child-beauty-pageants-pros-and-cons.html Pull the Pin. (2012, April 6). Pull the Pin on Beauty Pageants for Children. Retrieved from http://www. pullthepin.com.au/about-us.html Sparkle, B. (2012, June 10). 5 facts about Beauty Pageants. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/own-ouramericalisaling/blogs/5-facts-about-beauty-pageants#xzz2pddcdmel

References: Bubac, H. (2012, November 11). Child Beauty Pageants: Excellent or Exploitive?. Retrieved from http://english1100portfolio.blogspot.com/2012/12/child-beauty-pageants-excellent-or.html Cromie, W. (2000, June 8). The whys and woes of beauty pageants. Retrieved from http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2000/006.08/beauty.html Maliakal, L. (2013, February 7). Child Beauty pageants: Pros and Cons. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/child-beauty-pageants-pros-and-cons.html Pull the Pin. (2012, April 6). Pull the Pin on Beauty Pageants for Children. Retrieved from http://www. pullthepin.com.au/about-us.html Sparkle, B. (2012, June 10). 5 facts about Beauty Pageants. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/own-ouramericalisaling/blogs/5-facts-about-beauty-pageants#xzz2pddcdmel

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