I’ll admit it: I am not from the land of pageantry. It seems to be much more common in the American South than the Midwest I hail from.
Among other controversial aspects of Southern culture (looking at you, Confederate flags), I have to say beauty pageants – specifically, child beauty pageants – are a sexist and harmful practice.
It’s pretty apparent to even the casual onlooker that objectifying children is creepy. I’m amazed that anyone can justify enrolling their daughter in this ordeal (and there is no male equivalent).
The show Toddlers & Tiaras cemented any suspicions I had about the disturbing effects of child pageantry. The girls – typically two to four years old – don heavy makeup and suggestive outfits, as we all know. But the primping goes far beyond that. Fake hair, fake lashes and fake teeth – that’s right, fake teeth – complete the look. Called “dental flippers”, these teeth inserts hurt the girls’ mouths terribly and they all cry when the flippers are put in. But they have to wear them because it’s unacceptable for a three year old girl to not have a perfect smile (?!!!).
Now combine that with the cut-throat, competitive atmosphere of beauty pageants. The idea that other girls are your competition and thus, to be hated, is a dangerous ideal that continues into adulthood, where women compete for the attention of men. This kind of division in our gender is a huge obstacle to feminism since we are socialized to envy, hate and destroy other women instead of befriend, celebrate and empower them.
And the last issue almost goes without saying – child pageantry is ruinous to girls’ self-esteem. Pageants teach girls that their value, their entire worth depends on how attractive they are.
So this is my public plea to end child pageants. And before I get accused of being crazy, let me just say France banned child beauty pageants in 2013 – so let’s be next.