The official definition of a Beauty Contest, or pageant, is an assemblage of girls or women at which judges select the most beautiful. Although some people argue that they can be much more than a judging of feminine beauty, it is glaringly obvious that no good can come of them. Recent research shows that there is no use for child beauty pageants and they are harming our future generations (Statisticsbrain. com p. 1). Children under eighteen should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants because it ruins their self-esteem and body image, it can be classified as child abuse, and it can cause mental disorders later in life.
The debate on child beauty pageants is nothing new. Many scandals have occurred over the years. The 1973 Miss World, 1984 Miss America, Miss Nevada, Miss Jersey, and 2006 Miss Teen USA were all “girls gone wild” involving drugs, blackmailing, saboteurs, alcohol, and topless romps (Merino p. 40-44). With reality television shows like “Showbiz Moms and Dads” (2004), “Toddlers and Tiaras” (2008-2013), and “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” (2012-2014), many people have taken a stance against them.
One of the main reasons that pageants are harmful to children is that they ruin their views of body image and destroy their self-esteem. Although self-esteem and body image are very similar things, they do have different effects on the brain. Body image is much more than acceptance of our physical appearance: it is our mental picture of our bodies, thoughts, feelings, judgments, sensations, awareness, and behavior. On the other hand, self-esteem is to like or accept oneself a lot, and how you look as well as what you believe in.
In a nationwide survey in “USA Weekend”, nearly two out of five teens said they would feel better about themselves if they lost weight (girls) or bulked up (boys). Another survey told us that seven out of ten felt either “somewhat satisfied” or “not at all satisfied” with their looks (Bellenir p. 16). Beth Dalbey says that “Pageants perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards that make women insecure and cause them to seek out expensive beauty treatments/ surgeries” (Dalbey P. 1 1D).
She also told us the surprising fact that women on average spend about thirty billion dollars on diet schemes annually. For every child who derives any benefit from the competition of the pageants, hundreds of others suffer damage to their self-esteem and develop warped ideas about their bodies. These examples of self-esteem in both young girls and women give insight into the problem in our society. Although it is good to have high self-esteem, it is also very important to give our young children a correct and reasonable body image.
Martina Cartwright agrees when she says, “For the girls who develop image obsessions, it appears that the hypercritical environment of their youth produces a drive towards the unattainable goal of physical perfection” (Cartwright p. 1 5A). This means that what kids see on television and all over the media is what they will strive to be like as they grow older. According to Melissa Henson, the American Psychological Association released a report in February 2007 saying girls’ exposure to hyper sexualized media can affect their cognitive and emotional development.
This can eventually lead to low self-esteem, epression, diminished sexual health, and fewer girls pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On the other hand, boys and adult men are learning to value women strictly for their sex appeal which can lead to more incidents of sexual violence or harassment and increased demand for child pornography. In January 2016 80% of women said the models in the media make them feel self-conscious (Henson p. 1). Throughout history, women have always strived to change and be different. That is why our appearance is always changing and this is not necessarily a bad thing.
However, we should only want to change in order to better ourselves and not strive to look like anyone else. The next reason why children should not participate in pageants is somewhat extreme. What classifies as child abuse? The definition of child abuse is the physical, mental, or sexual abuse, injury, or exploitation of a child, under circumstances which indicate the child’s health or welfare is threatened or harmed. This brings us to the aspect of sexual predators or pedophiles which is one of the main arguments for the pageant naysayers.
Vanessa Woods, a famous author, says “People are sick if they see anything sexy about a little girl” (Williams p. 1 4A). That is just it Vanessa: our world is full of sick people and the only thing we can do about it is protect our children as best we can. However, dressing them up in adult costumes and makeup is precisely the opposite of protecting them. Some parents are so warped or maybe starved for something like attention that they will shamelessly exploit their children’s physical beauty without regard for the possible consequences.
A tragic example is the murder case of six year old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. She was found strangled and beaten with a blunt object in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. The case is still an unsolved mystery but that does not matter. It could have been her mother, who was once a beauty queen herself, maybe still wanting that attention. Maybe it was her father who happened to have a strange obsession with her and her late older sister. The murderer could have been a random stalker or pedophile who intruded into the Ramsey home.
All that matters is that Jonbenet is an everlasting symbol of all those children out there who are being put at risk and danger every time they enter a pageant. Another classification of child abuse is that many children hate being put in pageants. The training programs and practice sessions for choreography are grueling. Many parents argue that their children are learning discipline, patience, and a sense of accomplishment by enduring the hair, makeup, fake tans, and hours of practice. However, most parents blatantly bribe their children with candy and toys to get them to cooperate.
By spending weeks at a time preparing for pageants, children are missing out on play or learning time. Therefore, by forcing them to participate, parents are abusing their children’s mental growth. Although it is not as obvious as many of the other problems with pageants, the fact that they classify as child abuse is a breaking point for my argument that children should not be allowed to compete in pageants. When children participate in beauty contests, they are put at risk to eventually have mental disorders such as anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, and eating disorders. Most people love you for who pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending- performing. You get to love your pretense. It’s true; we’re locked in an image, an act” (Jim Morrison lead singer of The Doors). Martina Cartwright has similar views when she says “For these kids, the constant ‘play acting’ may create hyper-competitive, shallow adults who are never satisfied” (Cartwright p. 1).
Anxiety disorder is an emotional state with symptoms of uneasiness, fear, rapid heartbeat, tension, restlessness, and sweating. There are many causes to anxiety and people of any age can e affected by it. Causes include stress in daily life and psychological, physical or genetic conditions. Most of the time, the source of anxiety is nonspecific or not consciously known by the patient. The different types of anxiety disorders can include panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress syndrome, social phobia, tics, and Tourette’s syndrome. GAD is generalized anxiety disorder which is a constant state of tension over various situations. This is usually what children in pageants suffer from because they are constantly worrying about their competition.
The next disorder that beauty queens are at risk for is BDD. People who have BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) worry about some aspect of their appearance and find it hard to receive or believe assurance from others about their physical appearance. The clues to the presence of BDD include when one is constantly comparing their appearance to others, scrutinizing the appearance of others, or often checking their appearance. Does this sound familiar? It should because these are exactly the required actions in a beauty pageant.
The last common disorder is eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. To start off with some statistics, on January 26th 2016, The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, PBS, and The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders conducted a study of body image in the U. S. They found that 42 percent of girls in the first through third grades want to be thinner and 81 percent of ten year olds are afraid of being fat. Sadly, 90 percent of fifteen-seventeen year old girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.
Finally, the total number of people in the U. S. with an eating disorder is 8,000,000 (Statisticsbrain. com p. 1). Bulimia is somewhat of a less serious condition than anorexia although they are both threatening to the well-being of the patient. The main difference between diagnoses is that anorexia nervosa is a syndrome of self-starvation involving significant weight loss of 15 percent or more of ideal body weight, whereas patients with bulimia nervosa are, by definition, at normal weight or above.
The next generation of sweet innocent bodies should never have to endure what 8,000,000 of humans are currently going through. Now that we have gone over the horrible aspects of child beauty contests, the counter argument is at hand. The main arguments of the beauty pageant supporters are that they are a good way to earn scholarships, they teach the children to have poise, quick thinking/wits, and discipline, and they give character. Sabrina Nooruddin was once a beauty queen herself, still supports them, and even gives them credit for her success.
She argues that “ With talent, interview, platforms and question-answer segments pageants are moving away from aesthetics and forcing contestants to be well spoken, knowledgeable, and graceful young ladies who are passionate about a purpose” (Nooruddin p. 1 6B). Sabrina created a peer mentoring group that pairs local, state, and national beauty queens with middle school girls to talk about important issues such as body image, bullying, and cyber safety. Thirteen-year-old Ashley Berry is another example of a previous beauty queen who is still a supporter.
Ashley’s mother, Anna, believes “There is nothing wrong with children competing in the pageants as a hobby and they like it if they are not too young to understand or forced to do it” (Morgan p. 1 7A). Although many successful women like Sabrina and Ashley pin their success on pageants, there are too many girls who are forced to feel the weight, pressure, and depression of losing child beauty contests on the other hand. When will we realize that we have gone too far in the world of pageantry?
Moms around the world are dressing their five-year-olds as prostitutes from famous movies, or famous singers with womanly features. The only way that these children would benefit is if they want to have a job as an anorexic stripper or model when they grow up. In conclusion, there are three main reasons as to why children under eighteen years of age should be banned from entering beauty pageants. These three reasons are that pageants destroy their self-esteem and body image, they can be classified as child abuse, and children are liable to have mental and eating disorders.
The way that these pageants are harming our next generation is something that cannot be undone. We must come together against Beauty Pageants if we want our future to be an educated, kind, and cultured one. Our future generation of intelligent minds is all we can utilize to continue building a world where we are all content with the way we are and nothing can come between that. The only thing that we can do is educate every person who is ignorant about the damage being done so that we can make a change and we will never repeat history.