A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. ~ Rachel Carson The year was 1920. The First World War ended and the women’s movement began to take off. 1920 also marked the first year of the American beauty pageant. This was a groundbreaking year, as women from all over the United States were given the opportunity to show their talent, outer beauty and inner intelligence.
Little did our country know, that 40 years later, children as young as 10 months old would be competing in beauty pageants. 1960 marked the first child beauty pageant in America and started a major American trend. Since the tragic death of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996, child beauty pageants have been a hot topic of debate. Ramsey’s death opened a new door to the skepticism of beauty pageants by allowing the media into the world of child beauty pageants through more curious eyes.
These eyes began to see beauty pageants as a threat to children and their safety; being exposed to the world at such a young age with a made-up face of inappropriate maturity (Buzzle, par. 1). Destruction of the child’s self esteem and constant attentiveness to appearance are major cons that continue to grow. Cons of unremarkable expenses, loss of educational interest and loss of innocence also remain, strengthening the fact that beauty pageants are harmful to children who compete in them. A child’s self-esteem is a fragile element.
Advocates for child pageants believe beauty pageants boost children’s self-esteem by the attention they receive for being dolled up, dancing and singing and winning awards for placing higher than the other children. But as fast as self-esteem can be built up by a sentence of praise or a trophy, it can be just as easily shut down by not being good enough for someone else and losing. The amount of pressure put on children to excel in a pageant is astounding. When the child has outside pressure of excelling and winning a pageant, the effects of a loss are damaging.
Children become easily frustrated at such a young age and often cannot understand why the massive amount of pressure was put upon them for no reason. The main focus of winning that the parents stress on their child is unnecessary and unhealthy to the child’s mind. A healthier alternative to building a child’s self-esteem would be to enroll he or she in a community team sport. Youth sports give children the chance to participate and earn a sense accomplishment without being let down under pressure. Although child beauty pageants contest to specific age ranges, the judging is no different than the Miss America Pageant. Child beauty pageants consist of modeling sportswear, evening attire, dance and talent. The children are judged based on individuality in looks, capability, poise, perfection and confidence. As the judges call it, “the complete package” (Minorcon, par. 3). Children are constantly exposed to the newest hair extensions, longest-lasting make-up and latest clothing lines all in effort to beat out their fellow three-year old. These pageants are preparing young children for their teen and adult years at too early of an age.
Child beauty pageants play a uniquely powerful role in defining what is attractive in our society by ranking and awarding the physical attractiveness of children. This constant reminder of putting hair and make-up above all else is disturbing and forces children to be concerned with superficial issues that have no long-term value. With cosmetic innovations being created and perfected, radical pageant parents have gone to great lengths to perfect their child. “When some of the children lost baby teeth that had not been replaced by pageant time, their parents fit them with false teeth.
When a girl’s hair was too short to curl like Barbie’s, fake additions were fitted” (Harvard, par. 8-9). These “fixes” cost thousands of dollars that could be put toward a more beneficial and long-term career. Not only are the cosmetic alterations breaking the banks of these parents, but the additional pageant costs are making a dent in their wallets too. “There is a minimum cost of $545 to enter the pageant, which covers basic entry fees. Another $395 is needed for the maximum options of this pageant,” (Minorcon, par. 3). These “maximum options” might include staple clothing, such as tights or tank tops.
All additional clothing, including sportswear, eveningwear, talent clothing, not to mention the “must have” accessories, is up to the parents to pick from the money tree in the back yard. This money should not be spent on pre-maturely advancing a child’s appearance, but should be saved for activities such as youth sports, or better yet a college fund! Several studies have been done on child beauty pageant contestants to seek out their experiences and thoughts rather than their parents’. Researchers are curious especially concerning contestants’ thoughts on further education. The real concern should be on future education needs; all of the girls aged eight to ten interviewed by A Network were not concerned with further education” (Par. 4). Many pageant girls have false aspirations of becoming a model, and while aspirations are crucial for any child, the dreams of becoming a model are slim to none after coming out of the child pageant life. Although education is not necessarily effected at that present moment, the participating children do not plan ahead based on their mind and intelligence they will gain by attending school, but rather on their appearances.
Lastly, the loss of innocence from these beauty pageants is devastating. Fake plastic smiles, false eyelashes and polished appearance spoil a child’s innocence. Children grow up to think that the only way to earn money is through exploitation of their bodies, which is not true. These children are the future of our world. A child’s growing years are important as they form the foundation for the development of body and mind. Childhood is the time for them to play, not learn poise. It’s the time for them to be mischievous and not polished.
It’s the time for them to do well in academics and not exhibit their bodies. Children are more beautiful covered in mud than when covered in make-up. Works Cited The Whys and Woes of Beauty Pageants. 08 June 2000. Harvard. edu. 08 February 2010. Child Beauty Pageants. 12 January 2010. Buzzle. com. 08 February 2010. Beauty Pageants do More Harm Than Good. 16 December 2007. Debate. org. 07 February 2010. Beauty Pageants: Good, Bad, or Plain Ugly. 06 March 2004. Buzzle. com. 07 February 2010.