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Child beauty pageants should indeed be banned, simply because the so-called benefits that children derived out of participation in these events are clearly and undoubtedly outweighed by the harsh and destructive effects that are caused to their persons and to the society in general. Child beauty pageants not only glorify a narrow and skewed concept of beauty, it also sexualizes children. They reward parents for behavior that puts the safety and welfare of their children in question, and they have no real value apart from entertainment, media ratings and a false sense of confidence. For these reasons and more, beauty pageants with children participants should be banned.
Child beauty pageants sexualizes children
While it is true that beauty pageants were originally conceived as a means to promote the
inner and outer beauty of its participants, it is now clear that in the recent years, much of the focus of these pageants have been centering on physical beauty, based on standards that are not supposedly applicable to children. It is evident from existing child beauty pageants that parents are clearly manipulating how their child participants will and should look—often going to the extremes of giving girls fake tans, giving them botox injections, making them undergo certain beauty procedures that are normally reserved to adult. Truly, there is nothing beneficial that could be derived from these practices. Instead, it paints a very bleak picture of girls being reduced to mere objects, creatures of their parents’ twisted sense of competition and beauty. As pinpointed by Donahoo in his book “Idolising Children” (16), “These children portray images of adult beauty that some people believe is for the satiation of adult egos: to temper uncontrolled insecurities and unspoken fetishes. Child beauty pageants stand as an extreme example of our society’s obsession with childhood and youth”. Again, it all boils down to the question of why are child beauty pageants held? If indeed it is for the benefit of the children, as its supporters eagerly contend, then how come the practices surrounding its conduct, especially on how the child participants are prepped, point nowhere but to the conclusion that the pageants are for the adults?
Child beauty pageants sends a wrong message to society
It is in childhood that persons discover and shape their personalities and character based
on their respective experiences, aided by life skills which are (hopefully) shared to them by individuals and institutions alike. Child beauty pageants do nothing but send the message that appearance is the most important value each woman should have if she wants to attain success. (O’Neill 2) While there is nothing wrong with putting value on outward appearance, it is certainly not the most important element for a person to succeed. What is more alarming is that girls of very young ages see for themselves the “reward” if they fit the standards set by the pageants. For instance, little girls are wearing miniature versions of skimpy clothes worn by adults. They change their appearances to look like somebody else. They grow up thinking that the best look is the face of another person, not their own. Supporters of beauty pageants contend that these events develop a child’s self esteem, but what they fail to mention is that this sense of esteem is fake for it is grounded on the belief that a child is beautiful because she can look like somebody else. What happens when she grows older and finds that her beauty is unlike those whom she desperately wants to look like?
Child beauty pageants put a child’s health in jeopardy
It is not only a child’s self esteem that is compromised in the process of joining child
beauty pageants, it appears that her physical well-being is also put on the line. Reports of mothers forcing caffeinated drinks and other drinks and food with high sugar and caffeine content are common. These are given to the children to keep their energy levels up, especially because beauty pageants are demanding and highly stressful events. Rick Nauert in his article (n.pag) published in 2012 explained a research conducted by registered dietician Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D, who discovered that “the emphasis on physical perfection may put young girls at risk for adult body dissatisfaction, and potentially eating disorders” (Nauert n.pag) It does not take rocket science to understand why girls would later on develop bodily issues. After all, their childhood is surrounded of images of “desirable” bodies, that a mere slip on their part in their efforts to look like those whom they idolize, seem to be unforgiveable. Moreover, the physical stress alone that is expected of pageants can put a great burden on young shoulders. By way of an example, it is a well-accepted fact that children need periodic naps to aid their mental and physical growth. They are denied these opportunities for growth because child beauty pageants often follow a strict schedule.
Child beauty pageants provide opportunity for parents to promote false sense of perfection
The truth is that it is never the fault of the child participants that they are made to look
and act the way they do in pageants. It is their parents who are at fault, and who may need some serious psychological interventions. Several studies have already been conducted on this matter, and all are one in saying that the parents of these children, even when they may not intend to do so, actually put unnecessary pressure on their children. According to Leiberman (739-744), the unrealistic perfection that these parents demand of their children causes physiological problems to their children later on in life.
The issue of whether to ban child beauty pageants may draw the ire of those who think that it is wrong for the government to meddle with how parents are running families and raising children. Though France has already initiated some legal measures to ensure that there is a countrywide ban on child beauty pageants, many believe that this initiative will not fly high in America.
Interestingly, a recent article in CNN compared the issue to that of crime coverage, saying that “Viewers complain there's too much crime in local television news reports, and yet, the stations covering crime enjoy high ratings. People complain that child beauty pageants exploit young girls and yet, the ratings for reality television shows such as TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" are sky high.” (Wallace n.pag) Perhaps this could explain why such initiative will not gain the much-needed push in the United States—people are too caught up in the entertainment value of it that they lose track of the real loss and the destructive effects child beauty pageants have, not only on the child participants, but on society as a whole. The government should realize how substantial these losses and these negative effects are and understand that things have gone too far. Yes, parents have the responsibility to raise their children according to their beliefs and principles. But if a growing number of them are doing all these destructive things to their children, shouldn’t the government find substantial grounds to intervene?
Donahoo, Daniel. Idolising Children. Sydney, NSW: University of South Wales Press Ltd., 2007. Print.
Leiberman, Lindsay. “Protecting pageant princesses: a call for statutory regulation of child beauty pageants” Journal of Law & Policy, 18(2), 739-774. 8 December 2013.
Nauert, Rick. “Child Beauty Pageants may be More About Parents” Psych Central 29 October 2012. Web. 8 December 2013.
O’Neill, Justin. “Should 4-Year-Olds be Beauty Queens?” Scope 12 December 2011: 3. Print.
Wallace, Kelly. “French moving to ban child beauty pageants: Should we?” CNN 19 September 2013. Web. 8 December 2013
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