The value in child beauty pageants is extremely difficult to find, partly because it doesn’t exist. The industry is responsible for confidence issues in millions of participants that can’t seem to win the ‘Grand Supreme Title’ or the “Prettiest Smile Award. ‘ As quoted by Andrews, “experts see a clear association between these types of events and the development of body image problems, eating disorders, and depression” (1). The young participants are resulting to harmful act to relieve the pain the pressure to be perfect has caused.
Confidence levels are easily shot when scores from the judges are revealed, citing she was not ‘good enough’ to win it all. Young women will adapt to the feeling of constantly being judged on perfection, creating even more work for counselors teaching women to love themselves. As most parent’s claim that pageants can be a learning experience, most girls will surely learn about themselves and who they are through the experience, but not exactly in the best way.
Critics worrying about the future of these young ladies are citing that “girls who are sexualized early will tend to gather their self-worth as an adult based on their appearance” (Banned in the USA 2). The specified “values” of these pageants are not likely to pass as the child grows, but will persist and make for an unhappy woman. Some individuals may still wonder about the educational experience involved with participating in competition. The events in child beauty pageants are usually form to a strict guideline, starting with the beauty competition with the talent, outfit of choice, or swimwear categories to follow.
The beloved free response question is exempt from these pageants, where the ‘dolls’ are “judged on personality” but do not “speak a word” (Child Beauty Pageants 1). The intelligence, intellect, or imagination of the participant are not displayed for the judges, proving how glitz pageantry focuses on the shallowness of appearance and facial beauty. The lessons learned from pageantry are far from educational and lead to health issues in young girls once filled with life and potential.
Although the theory that glitz beauty pageants serve as a confidence crusher for young girls, the statistics elevate it to another level. Competitions based on overall, outward appearance and that snub inner beauty surely contribute to the rising epidemic of self-confidence issues. Perhaps because of this focus, “recent surveys have shown that young people are becoming progressively more concerned with their appearance at the same time as their body image appears to be plummeting” (Day 5).
Self love is declining while self harm is thriving because of the pressure on young woman to meet the typical body standards and being awarded for appearing perfect on the surface, which is starting as young as a beauty pageant will allow it to. The societal importance of looking the absolute best has carried over from temporary makeup to more permanent routes like plastic surgery or hair and eyelash extensions. These previously rare paths are becoming even more popular in young girls.
A poll of three thousand teenage girls issued in 2009 showed that “more than a quarter would spend their money on their looks rather studies, while one fifth have considered plastic surgery” (Day 5). The standards of beauty have been passed down by generations, not stopping before entering the easily affected mind of today’s teenagers. At an extremely early age, these young women can be psychologically affected in a way that will alter how she views herself forever. Along with facial beauty, weight and thickness can also hinder a girl from wanting to participate in pageants because of the rarity of a child who is not stick-thin winning.
These girls are noticing the difference in opportunities based on size, resulting in their dreams not being followed. A study on middle aged girls shows that six out of ten believe they would be happier if thinner (Day 5). Contrary to what these teenagers believe and what pageants teach, the beauty within exceeds the importance of the number on the scale. The thin-filled pageant world aids in society’s negative views towards larger women, yet again crushing the confidence of a heavier-set child.
It would be easy to concede that some parents say pageants “teach girls to be strong, confident individuals and see how far they go in life” (Banned in USA 4). However, the confidence pitch is defeated by research showing that “reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety, and low selfesteem” (Let the Girls 2). The research and data pulled from America’s own teenagers cannot be denied, which should be pushing adults and parents everywhere to stop beauty based pageantry before the body dissatisfaction rate increases to the next level.
Much like pageants in general, children subject to sexualization by their parents despicable choices could change the most confident girl into one that is timid and questioning her self worth. If the mere presence of beauty pageants in a girl’s childhood does not relay issues with self-esteem, the prancing and preening in revealing outfits surely will. Dalzell complains that the existence of child beauty pageants “contributes to a raft of negative physical and mental health outcomes such as eating disorders, self harm, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and poor academic performance” (Dalzell 2).
All areas of a contestant’s life can be affected, altering her future by determining grades, mental health, and even mental image. Being sexualized on stage, or on television, for all adults to see will easily lead to a questionable upbringing plagued with scrutiny. These feelings will certainly exert from the pressure to perform for an older crowd of both genders and to grow faster than other children their age. The idea that adults ‘own’ their children and can live vicariously through them makes the pageant industry even more questionable that it already is.
The pageant participant are “glammed up and objectified to look like mature attractive women” while looking twice their authentic age (Day 5). Treating children as mere extensions of parents will blur the line between parent and child, making the contestant feel as though she must please her pushy parent. Additionally, the rhinestone dresses and costumes worn by participants easily reveal more than a child should be bearing. The outfits teach young girls that showing more skin wins attention while the skin-bearing pictures or videos circulate social media.
The act of ignorant parents sexualizing young girls “can affect a child’s body image, emotional development and physical health and also provoke sexual harassment in schools and workplaces” (Dalzell 1). By watching their parents applaud a six year old in a glitter-covered bikini, other children will quickly learn that women in minimal clothing is not only acceptable, but supported. The attention adults may get when showing off children’s bodies may bring fame for fifteen seconds, but it will cause trauma that could last a lifetime.
Overall, the sexualization of children in beauty competitions gains attention for the risque outfits and movements performed by the contestants. These outfits have been proven to serve one specific purpose: to put on a show for the adults in the audience. After close research, critics believe glitz pageants “mark a deep sexual disturbance in the society, a cannibalizing of youth by these vampiric adults” (Innocence 2). Emphasizing sexual behaviors allows for perverts and pedophiles to gain easier access to these young children, leaving female preteens wondering about their worth and abilities to achieve great accomplishments (Wilkinson).
Glitz Beauty Pageants are only increasing the number of child predators participating in illegal sexual abuse. However, by putting sexualized children in front of them, many may not feel the desire to engage in sexual activity with minors, but feel that watching them on the internet or television satisfies their needs. Researchers vocalize how they “know that predators or pedophiles continually tend to justify their interest in children by saying children are sexual beings” (Day 5). Justification from these leeches comes from their easy access to sexual media pertaining to children.
Therefore, many say the blame cannot be placed on his or her own shoulders, as the content objectifying children is present at every turn. Ultimately, critics and neutral researchers alike have realized that beauty pageants are no longer about the experience of the children. If it were for the children, natural pageantry, with its minimal touch ups and sundresses, should adequately suffice. Therefore, Day explains how these ultra-glitz competitions “are not for children to entertain other children,” but rather to fuel adult fantasies (5).
Children prance on stage not for their own satisfaction, experience, or benefit, but to fulfill a parent or close adult’s desire for attention, leaving children to feel worthless without a crown. Glitz Beauty Pageants open to children allow for an easily accessible platform to sexualize children for the attention and benefits of fully-grown adults, leaving the contestants to pick up the pieces as they grow. Ultimately, glitz child beauty pageants prove to promote sexualization and questionable motivations that diminish the value of the competition and result in plummeting self-esteem in contestants.
These competitions prove to increase the risk of negative self worth while preening young girls and bringing attention to their desperate mothers. The story of JonBenet Ramsey’s death surely promotes these claims and allows for an even darker revelation to emerge. The sexualization of young girls can not only lead to exposure to child predators, but can result in a gruesome unsolved murder in the basement of the beauty queen’s own home. Are the few precious moments on stage worth the psychological and physical downfalls?