Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sand pits, not glitz!

My poor blog is so quiet, I haven't been giving it much attention lately. So here is some blog love, and an opportunity for me to 'talk' without interruptions, or else my husband smiling and nodding with wide, frightened eyes. He is learning the difference between topics where I am open to discussion and those where he should just fervently agree. He's actually making some progress.

A few months back, Universal Royalty from Texas decided to bring their child beauty pageants to Australia. There have been huge reactions from Australians (and now, New Zealanders) including nation-wide rallies and facebook campaigns for and against child beauty pageants, including Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants and Pull the Pin (on beauty pageants for children). AACBP currently has over 4000 supporters, and based on various online polls, 95% of Australians object to child beauty pageants. Including me. And I'll tell you why!

In some American style beauty pageants, little girls are spray tanned, waxed, wear fake teeth ("flippers") as well as style their hair and have their face heavily made up. This is so they can be the best- because they are judged on their looks, their level of hotness.

This is a picture of beauty queen Eden Wood, aged six, America's "prettiest little girl". Funnily enough, even she doesn't look much like the girl in this picture in real life. She is one of the stars on reality television show 'Toddlers and Tiaras' and has released her own single, along with t-shirts, ties, etc. There is a lot of money to be made here, and her mother (who is also her manager) is making plenty.

Then there is the concern of little girls being sexualised as they dress up and act like mini adults. Some wear skimpy costumes and move in a sexual way. Eden Woods sings about "shaking [her] booty". These little girls are encouraged to look and act like ladies, but they are not ladies, they are little girls.

What do girls learn about themselves as they participate in beauty pageants? That their value as a person is based on their appearance, how hot they are? That is a huge burden for a small child. And if they don't win, which odds are, most of them won't- what do they learn about themselves then? That they are not good enough, that they are not pretty enough?

Some pageant supporters argue that participation in these pageants builds confidence and self esteem in children. I disagree. There are many other ways a child can develop confidence- in learning a skill or playing a sport, or developing a talent or other attribute. Pageant supporters say there is no difference between these things and beauty pageants. However, in learning a musical instrument, for instance, a child might learn that with practice, hard work and determination, they may improve their skills. In playing a team sport, children learn the value of team work, good sportsmanship and many other important lessons. Beauty pageants, however, are not based on a skill that can be practiced- they are based on looks. Try working on your looks! Short of plastic surgery, your face probably isn't going to change too much.

My next big concern is the fact that the little girls involved don't have the ability to make an informed choice about being in pageants. They might want to, but they lack the foresight to see how they might be affected in the future, or the possible emotional harm that may result. The number one issue affecting young people in Australia is body image. Girls are experiencing eating disorders, anxiety, depression, low self esteem, self harm and more from younger ages. They are increasingly under pressure to be hot, thin, sexy- while still in primary school. Children barely have a childhood as it is, a time where they can be free of the burden and the worry that can accompany adult issues. I can't imagine feeling pressure to look perfect at the age of eight, for example. Personally, I didn't even regularly blow-dry my hair until I was sixteen. I didn't wear make up to school, with the exception of some mascara maybe, and the occasional rebellious blue eye shadow. (I looked GOOD...heh heh)

I don't believe parents can make this kind of decision for their daughters, and still believe it is in the best interest of their child. I believe in some cases they are pimping out their children for an ego boost. In Australia and New Zealand, there have been many child advocates and psychologists warning of the potential (likely) damage to young minds as they are exposed to 'toxic' pageant culture. I believe it is what the parents want, and for this reason I think it is exploitation. You can see a video of a five year old getting her eyebrows waxed against her will. Warning- it is unpleasant, but I think it illustrates my point about pageants being more about parents than children.

I don't consider myself to be the perfect parent, far from it! I am still learning and I think I will always be. It is not my intention to criticize parents, although I am personally disgusted by the child beauty pageant industry and those within it who are getting rich from this exploitation.

I am blessed to have three dirty, messy children who won't let me near them with a brush or a wet wipe. I will do everything I can to teach them that there is more to beauty than their outward appearance. Probably should start with myself.

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