The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Look into the World of Child Beauty Pageants

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I’ve never had the pleasure to see any episodes of the reality TV show Toddlers and Tiaras, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds awful.  Two recent episodes reinforce just how warped this show really is.

Toddlers and Tiaras focuses on the world of beauty pageants for girls.  For those of you who may not have heard about these spectacles, they’re basically Miss America pageants for the elementary-aged set.  Girls as young as two have their hair teased and their faces shellacked with makeup and then dress in child-sized gowns and “compete” against each other to be crowned the winner of the pageant.  It’s kind of creepy seeing these girls dressed and made up like adults, when they should be running around and actually enjoying their childhood.

In the past, child beauty pageants were an American subculture that rarely crossed into the mainstream (with the terrible exception of JonBenet Ramsey).  But now that reality TV seems so eager to introduce the viewing public to all kinds of weirdness, we’ve now got a view of what really goes on in the world of girls’ pageants.  And what a terrifying world it is.

On one episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, a mother has her five-year-old daughter’s eyebrows waxed.  The girls is visibly distressed and pleads with her mother to skip this treatment, and the mother admits that the girl is probably upset because the last time she had her eyebrows done, the waxer managed to peel some of the skin off her face.  Still, the mother insists on going through with the procedure, but is only able to make the girl comply by waving a bag of candy in front of her face.

A week earlier, Toddlers and Tiaras featured a two-year-old dancing in a cone bra that is almost exactly like the one Madonna wore during her Blond Ambition tour.  It should be pointed out that this was an outfit the girl’s mother picked out.

What’s troubling about these two girls is how early they’re being made to conform to stereotypes about beauty:  that you must hold yourself to a certain standard of attractiveness, regardless of how much you suffer, and that it’s never too early to be sexualized.  It’s horrifying that these pageants exist, but it’s even worse that there are parents who gladly subject their children to this kind of torture.  And that there’s now an audience of willing spectators.
- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

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