Exploitation in Child Beauty Pageants
It is 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning, and Sharon is about to awaken her eighteen month old baby, Jessica, to prepare her for a long weekend of make-up, hairspray, and gowns. Jessica is one of the thousands of babies forced into the many children's beauty pageants each year. Sharon is among the many over-demanding parents who pressure their young and innocent children into beauty pageants
each year and this is wrong.
Beauty pageants were started many years ago but became more prominent in the society in 1921, when a hotel owner started a contest to keep tourists in town past Labor Day. The winner of this contest would be called Miss America. Miss America pageants have been a yearly event ever since then, except during the Great Depression. Then, in 1960, pageants were getting so popular that a Little Miss America was started for parents who wanted their children in beauty pageants (Nussbaum).
Children's beauty pageants are judged by the following: modeling sportswear and evening wear, how well they dance, and how much talent they have. The children themselves are judged by their looks, how well they perform, and how confident they appear. Approximately 250, 000 children participate in pageants each year. Mothers
who have their children in beauty pageants say that their children gain confidence through performing. They also say that they are more prepared for life and will be more socially comfortable. They argue that their children mature at a younger age than "normal" children do. Why would any parent want their children to grow up any faster than they already do? Beauty pageants are not the only way that a child at such a young age
can gain confidence.
The only confidence that a child at eighteen months needs to gain is eating on her own, standing up on her own and the confidence that her family loves her. If these children have and learn these three things
, they will most likely have great self-confidence. On the other hand, take the child who loses the pageant, for example. There are visible effects that the child shows if she loses; she then thinks less of herself and thinks she has let her parents down because she did not place first (Christman).
Parents also conclude that children who participate in beauty pageants may receive scholarships (Gleick). Beauty pageant scholarships are not the only scholarships available. If children spend time on schoolwork and do community service, they will be eligible for academic scholarships. Such scholarships include the Charter Fund Scholarship, Colorado Masons' Benevolent Fund Scholarship and the Boettcher Scholarship.
Parents putting children into beauty pageants for the money for college is wrong. They are teaching their kids that the only way to get money is through exploiting their bodies in front of sex-driven men.
Parents say that they are putting their children into beauty pageants because their child wants to do it. A mother cannot know that her child wants to be a doll on display when she can't even talk. Yet the hours that the child and her parents spend together are a great way for them to bond, as long as they are both happy in what they are doing.
With all of the time that the child is putting into practicing and reciting, she has very little time to play with the other children and learn life skills. Also if children are spending so much time on pageants, they are missing out on years of childhood activities such as trick or treating and Easter egg hunting because they are too busy watching their figures (Christman).
More and more these days, children develop eating disorders because they feel that their body is not perfect. The girls in pageants will do anything to get to the perfect size including starting such habits as bulimia and anorexia. According to Mr. Pinsofa, a clinical psychologist, children's beauty pageants can indeed cause eating disorders (Nussbaum). Children are thinking that appearance is everything and forgetting that the true beauty comes from the heart and personality. A truly beautiful girl does not need all of the make-up and hairspray, or be paraded around in a gown. She is learning false lessons on how to act around other people and not to be herself. Further, she learns to think that other children are inferior to her.
It is now 5:00 p.m. on Friday, and Jessica and Sharon have finished with the first of three long days. As Jessica walks off the stage empty handed, she looks at her mom with teary eyes as if she has failed both herself and her mom. As stated before, many children like Jessica, around the world, are forced into beauty pageants each year. Children at such a young age do not have the experience to learn that they are still a worthy person even if they lose the contest. All Jessica sees are other children leaving the stage with a sparkling trophy and their parents running over to them and giving them
a big hug while she walks off the stage with nothing and she sees her parents turning away. Children's beauty pageants have been blown way out of proportion, and that is wrong.
Nussbaum, Kareen. "Children and Beauty Pageants." A Minor Consideration. Dec.
1998. 17 Dec. 2001. <http://www.minorcon.org/pageants.html>.
Christman, Michelle, and Dawn Schaupert. "The Agony and Defeat of Children's
Beauty Pageants" Family Saurus.com. Feb. 1996. 12 Dec. 2001.
Gleick, Elizebeth. "Playing at Pageants." Time 20 Jan. 1997: 48-49.