Tiaras and Tirades

Recently, while flipping through the television channels, I happened across the scene of a young girl (she turned out to be 5 – yes, 5) screaming and crying and pleading with her mother (a seriously overweight, white women with perfect acrylic nails) to stop hurting her. Instantly I was sucked into watching the horror of a little girl having her eyebrows waxed (WTF?!) while her mom pinned her down, and harshly told her to be quiet. The mom was explaining to the reporter that her daughter “really wanted this” but was just “being a brat.”

As it turns out, I was watching a show on TLC about beauty pageants for young girls. This got me thinking and researching, and let me tell you: I am horrified. I thought beauty pageants had died out after the untimely and tragic demise of its most notorious participant – Jon Benet Ramsey – but surprisingly, beauty pageants are on the rise.

More and more parents from the lower income, lower education strata of our society are encouraging (pushing, coercing, forcing) their young girls into participating in these contests, where the top prizes are usually around $7,000–$10,000. One little girl, when asked why she participated, bluntly told the reporter: “Grandma needs a new car!” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a 5 year old.

Essentially, these young girls are being primped and preened into strange caricatures of prostitutes by the very people who are supposed to be protecting and nurturing them – their parents. Those who have lost baby teeth are given false teeth to hide behind. They are spray tanned, eyebrows are waxed, hair is dyed and extensions, wigs etc., are used freely. Make up, layer-by-layer is smeared onto their young faces.
Sadly, it’s no longer just the beauty pageants that are luring our children into this demented way of thinking. Dance classes once promised young girls the opportunity to learn how to move, be flexible and practice a skill. Now, most studios spend hours teaching girls (often as young as 4) to move in sexually suggestively and provocative ways.

Studies have repeatedly shown that men and society view makeup as an expression of a mature female seeking an adult relationship. It is no wonder then that Child Psychologists who have studied beauty pageants, and the people who attend them, have discovered that the physical transformation of these children leads to pedophilic fantasies of the worst kind.

The toll and stress of hours upon hours of dance lessons, singing lessons, posting of professional video on YouTube (in the hopes that it will become a hit, leading to fame and fortune) is mind bending. When do these children get a moment to just be, play and be kids? Remember when you were a child and dress-up was just a fun thing you did in your mom’s closet. Tripping on her high heels and getting busted for smearing lipstick all over your face. It was playtime with others and it was fun and it had its place in childhood.
Many of the participating parents believe that beauty pageants encourage self–confidence and teach young girls to strive to be their best. They believe competition is healthy and that if you have the “assets” you should use them to get further in life. However, all of this primping and preening leads to nothing more than sad faces and fake smiles. None of the girls ever look genuinely happy. They are taught how to fake-smile while being taught how to sashay down a stage. Essentially what these pageants are teaching the participants is that they are to value themselves through superficial and subjective means. It leads to depressed young girls growing up with Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) along with the knowledge that they have no real value or skill. Let’s face it, the only real skill you need in a beauty pageant is the ability to wield a hairbrush and apply “war-paint.”

The grossest example of this insanity I found while researching the subject, involved a mother who had her 8-year-old daughter endure a weekly session of Brazilian waxing, even though the little girl has not yet developed any pubic hair. The mother reasoned that if she waxed her daughter now the offending hair wouldn’t grow at all. I think she should be reported to child protective services immediately. Her smug smile as she publicly announced this made me want to throttle her. In a country where animals have PETA and one can go to jail for hurting an animal, why are parents allowed to do this to their children? Who and where are the child advocates for these little girls?? Where is the outrage? Why does TLC glamourize and promote this show? Is advertising revenue that important? Have we really become a country that would and does and accept this form of public child abuse? I’m freaked out. Completely.

I also had to wonder why does this mom care about pubic hair so much? Who would be looking? Is her little girl going to be a pageant star or a porn star? I mean, “What the hell are these parents thinking??” I believe that the majority of the moms who put their girls in these competitions are failed or frustrated beauty queen wannabe’s who live vicariously through their kids, with no regard to the psychological and emotional impact that their selfishness and desperation has on their children.

Karen Brooks a Psychologist in Australia who has studied the effects of beauty pageants on young girls quite aptly points out that “attiring children like adults, rewarding them or not for how they appear is to indulge in the worse kind of parental narcissism.”

I have to agree; at its most basic level, the beauty pageant industry for young girls is quite simply a form of child abuse.

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