Behind the immense amount of makeup and hairspray, lies a child who is trained to be overly confident and competitive. A child who faces disaster. Children who compete in beauty pageants are prone to physical and emotional harm; not only does it harm them, but society as well. ‘Child beauty pageants that convert young girls into “sex puppets adored with lipstick, mascara, false eyelashes, bleached hair, and high heels” are hardly a thing of the past. The five billion dollar industry draws thousands of participants a year’ (Tamer). Americans support this popular industry by watching television shows, such as Toddlers and Tiaras, which encourage parents to dress their kids inappropriately. It is not something new, in the child pageant world, for children to wear costumes that mimic schoolgirls, nurses, and even worse, prostitutes. Shows that expose children in such a way, often tend to attract pedophiles. ‘Nancy Irwin, a psychotherapist, cautions that pageant children, especially those on reality television shows, may be at greater risk of being harmed by sexual predators because of their high visibility and sexual behavior. She points out that it would not be difficult for a sex offender to pose as an agent or manager to reach a child’ (Wolfe). Beauty Pageants that sexualize children are harmful to society, due to the fact that they promote gender stereotyping and domestic violence. ‘Pageants that perpetuate gender stereotypes and portray women as objects of desire, as well as TV networks that publicize this message to the world, contribute to the cycle of sexual assault and domestic violence that permeates our society’ (Wolfe). In pageants, young girls who are praised to look and act like a ‘Barbie doll,’ are most likely ‘to grow up relying on the heteronormative stereotype of the fragile and subservient women, leaving them more vulnerable to sexual assault and violence’ (Wolfe). Likewise, young boys who watch shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, grow up to become ‘perpetrators of gendered crimes because they may learn to view women as sexual objects available for their viewing pleasure’ (Wolfe). Shows that portray young female children as eye-catching women, also appeal sick people into child pornography. ‘Representing children in the public arena as sexual objects encourages children to grow up too fast and bolsters social acceptance of the type of voyeurism that can lead to serious criminal activities like child exploitation and pornography’ (Wolfe). The public first realized how dangerous child beauty pageants can be when the infamous murder of JonBenet Ramsey. She was found dead in the basement of her Colorado home. JonBenet was a blonde pageant princess who also wore revealing attire at beauty pageants.
Child beauty pageants started to become the target of increased controversy and media scrutiny after the murder of beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. ‘As night after night news networks aired videotapes of JonBenet Ramsey “playing the role of an alluring sex kitten,” CBS anchorman Dan Rather criticized the networks, claiming the tapes amounted to “nothing more than kiddy porn’ (Tamer).
As of today, JonBenet Ramsey’s death has not been solved. Her father, John Ramsey, now gives advice to child pageant parents to protect their children. He now believes ‘it’s not a good idea to put your child on public display’ (Chang). ‘John Ramsey said letting his daughter compete in pageants is something he regrets. Only because that possibly might have drawn attention to them’ (Chang). Parents who support their kids being sexually exploited at beauty pageants should realize that a tragic case like JonBenet’s may occur to them if they are too na??ve to realize the harm beauty pageants are inflicting on their children.
A photograph of JonBenet Ramsey at a beauty pageant.
Beauty pageants also inflict emotional and physical pain on children. They are constantly being fed candy, energy drinks, and other foods that contain high content of caffeine by their parents. ‘Pixie Stix, a sugar-based candy, commonly known in the industry as “pageant crack,” is one standard method parents use to keep their pageant princesses full of energy’ (Wolfe). Parents of beauty pageant contestants, are oblivious to realize that so much intake of caffeine is extremely harmful for their child. ‘Psychologists warn that caffeine can have behavioral and mood-altering effects on children and may cause anxiety, lower attention spans, and create dependency’ (Wolfe). On the day of a pageant, parents only have one thing in mind, and that is to take home a title or a trophy. Beauty Pageants send a message to children that in order to be pretty, one must wear makeup, fake hair, fake teeth, and a fake tan. Many Children grow up believing this theory and develop emotional issues. ‘Cartwright believes that this emphasis on physical beauty causes many child pageant participants to suffer from the “Princess Syndrome,” an unhealthy drive to achieve physical perfection that can lead to dissatisfaction with one’s body and eating disorders later in life’ (Wolfe).
Chang, Juju. “JonBenet Ramsey’s Father Regrets Letting Her in Pageants, Says ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ Is ‘Bizarre’.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 11 Feb.
Tamer, Christine. “Toddlers, Tiaras, And Pedophilia? The “Borderline Child Pornography”
Embraced By the American Public.” Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law 13.1 (2011): 85-101. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
Wolfe, Lucy. ‘Darling Divas or Damaged Daughters? The Dark Side of Child Beauty Pageants
and an Administrative Law Solution.’ Tulane Law Review. December, 2012. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 12 February 2014.