After the recent hype over child beauty pageants in the media, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.
I admit to enjoying (?) the odd episode of toddlers and tiara’s . It was fascinating and despite the fact it made me uncomfortable and occasionally disturbed – I couldn’t look away!
I am proud of the many Australian mum’s who have taken the time to make a stand against child beauty pageants.
To believe that that this is all just ‘hype’ and that pageants are harmless is naive and sadly, a reflection of how popular culture is changing the way we think and view the world.
The unfortunate reality is that child beauty pageants are symptomatic of a deeper issue in our culture. Through the influence of the media and advertising we are becoming increasingly superficial and sexualized. The influence is so pervasive that we barely notice.
Beauty pageants may be the extreme manifestation of the pitfalls of popular culture but they raise some very important questions that as parents, we need to ask ourselves.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt my child will never be involved in a beauty pageant. But, is that enough? My children are being raised in a highly sexualised culture and I would have to go and live in a remote village in Peru to avoid this influence. So the question is, how do we protect our children from believing their worth is in their beauty or their sexuality? How do we teach values in a culture that is often times morally and ethically bankrupt?
If we are going to confront the issue of beauty pageants then we also have to address the sexualisation of young girls that is happening on a daily basis, without us even realizing it or understanding our role in enabling it.
How are our girls being sexualized?
Our popular culture is highly sexualized. Our kids are bombarded with sexual images everyday when they walk through shopping malls, look out the window in the car, glance at the TV when we’re watching the news and more so, if they’re allowed to watch commercial TV themselves. They also learn from us and what they see us value.
Young girls are yet to understand what it truly means to be sexual but by age 6, little girls already believe that being fat is ugly and thin is beautiful and that nice clothes have something to do with getting attention and feeling good.
Not only is our culture sexualizing them, it’s teaching them that superficiality and materialism are a significant and acceptable part of everyday life.
We love to comment when we see a child wearing a cute jacket or pretty dress because let’s face it, kid’s clothes are pretty darn cute! But I wonder what message this is really sending to little people.
Young children soon become aware that looking good receives adult approval, attention and compliments. Often the first thing we say to another child is “Don’t you look cute!” or “What a gorgeous jacket!” and when we do so, we reinforce the idea that what they look like or what they wear matters.
How can we protect our children?
When we continually compliment people on what they look like we reinforce the concept to our children (and ourselves) that appearance is highly valuable. It also makes us more likely to notice what other people look like or wear. In order to protect our children we need to find other ways to build them up and encourage them.
“That was so kind of you to share with your brother!”
“Thank you for using your manners. You are a very sweet little girl!”
“I just noticed you share your toy – what a generous person you are!”
Sexualisation, materialism and superficiality are ingrained in our culture and something that won’t change unless we as parents, recognize it and change ourselves.
I think it’s time we make a stand and teach our children to value themselves for who they are. We need to place the focus on their character, their kindness, their sweetness, their generosity, their sense of humour, and to some extent their unique gifts and abilities. We have to learn to go against the flow of popular culture to teach our children the right places to draw their worth and their value.
It’s about awakening our consciousness and and desiring something deeper and more authentic for ourselves, and ultimately, our kids.
So, what do I think of child beauty pageants? They’re just plain ugly.
To get involved visit – Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants