Friday, August 8, 2014

Child Beauty Pageants

I was recently sent an alarming article (by one of my much appreciated “weird news” benefactors) detailing the misadventures of 4-year-old Scarlett. Scarlett is a UK resident who, along with her mother, was recently featured on a Channel 5 documentary called Blinging Up Baby which chronicled several child beauty pageant contestants. Scarlett’s mother Leann fabricated a Hooter’s waitress costume for her daughter to wear while suggestively gyrating on stage. When asked to address the imminent criticism she knew she would receive from other parents, Leann responded thusly:

"Some people may say it's controversial, especially the theme I've chosen, but at the end of the day, little girls wear swimming costumes to the beach all summer, and that's not a controlled environment. The environment my kids go in is a controlled environment and it is ticket-entry only,"

Scarlett's Performance
Certainly one would be hard-pressed to name an event with a more rigorous audience screening process than a child-beauty pageant, but I am not sure that the ability to procure a paper ticket is indicative of safety. All that really tells us is that everyone watching the event really wanted to be there and was willing to pay for the privilege of attendance. I suppose you are at least eliminating the destitute, opportunistic creepers in favor of the employed, methodical ones.

The more immediate concern is the psychological impact of a parent living vicariously through their daughter in what is increasingly becoming an over-sexualized environment. Certainly not all child-beauty pageants feature grinding kindergarteners in hot-pants, but it is somewhat upsetting that child beauty reviews is becoming one of our countries better known exports.

So concerned was France, that in 2013 their Senate voted to ban beauty pageants for contestants under 16. The bill also outlined up to 2 years imprisonment for adults attempting to enter their children in banned events; and this is all from a country that makes America’s cultural norms on sexuality and nudity seem prudish by comparison.

The program also highlighted other British families that have been supposedly influenced by what the program termed “U.S. style child beauty pageants.” My personal favorite was Sophia May, who legally named her young daughters Princess Bliss and Precious Belle. Regardless of context, I believe that naming your child “Princess Bliss” constitutes an act of cruelty and should be investigated. 
Perhaps the poor little girl can turn her unfortunate moniker in a Japanese anime series. On the other hand, Precious Belle sounds like the name of Elvis Presley’s backup plane and almost guarantees she would never been taken seriously in a corporate office.   

I suppose it is difficult for me to identify the positive aspects of child beauty pageants and perhaps those who support them can enlighten me. So often it seems that the parent continues to force participation long after the child has lost interest (if they had any to begin with). To be fair, I also realize that no one gets featured on a reality show by exhibiting common sense and restraint so I am certainly basing my opinion on these outliers (along with repeated viewings of Little Miss Sunshine). One day Princess Bliss may cite her stint in child beauty pageants as the catalyst behind her success in the field of microbiology and numerous studies will show that girls who participated in these events are happier and better adjusted than their non-pageanted peers. I suppose anything is possible…..   

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