Babies, not Barbies

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When a little girl is entered into a beauty pageant, it is similar to throwing her into a lion’s pit because she can literally be eaten alive by self-hatred and low self-esteem. I believe that beauty pageants exploit young girls by creating a false persona, unrealistically portraying them as “Barbies,” and  promoting a heightened sense of self-worth and value.

In beauty pageants, children are instructed to “cover” themselves with heaps of make-up and wear a façade of sorts. This façade consists of glamorous dresses, puffed-up hair and make-up, which in turn, promotes the transformation into an ideal character. In addition, girls begin to believe in the superficial and shallow aspects that pageantry fuels. Jerry Adler, an editor for Newsweek, states, “If a girl is smart, schools are designed to reward her for that, and if she is great on the saxophone, she can join the band. Pageants are places where hair, eyes and clothes are all supposed to shine.” I firmly believe that pageantry teaches little girls to hate themselves and love a “fantasy-like” character that does not exist.

On The Learning Channel (TLC), people get an inside look into the bizarre world of pageantry on the highly popular show, Toddlers and Tiaras. The show examines the lives of child beauty pageant contestants and the “primping” process they must endure. I recently tried to watch an episode and I only watched a mere fifteen minutes as I was disgusted, to say the least. Witnessing children sashaying around stage in bikinis with a full face of makeup on just became unbearable to watch. I just could not fathom how a parent could subject his or her child to this type of exposure.

The unsolved murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey has long remained on the minds of Americans. In addition, with the approaching 2oth anniversary of Ramsey’s murder, there has been a resurgence of interest surrounding the mystery of her death and her pageant persona. Clips of Ramsey attracted worldwide attention as she gyrated across stage, reminiscent of a Las Vegas showgirl. Her premature death shed a public spotlight on the horrors of child pageantry. Ironically, Ramsey’s pageant experience serves as a catalyst for many parents.

Supporters of pageantry see it as a means of boosting confidence. I think that pageantry does the complete opposite. However, if a little girl is shy, some parents believe that competing in a pageant may help her develop self-esteem and personality. Some parents may also see pageantry as a means of letting a child have an early start at losing, in a sense. I understand that competition is a natural component of life. Whether playing Tee-ball at age three or even entering a Spelling Bee, all children are exposed to competition. Losing is one of the many harsh realities of life. Yet, a pageant is not a safe and healthy environment for a little girl. Little girls are shrouded by false ideologies about beauty and appearance. Also, girls are on stage for only a few seconds, standing before others being critiqued for how they look when children, moreover all human beings, should not be objectified. Children are fragile. All children struggle with self-acceptance and self-image as they grow up and look for a place in the world. Little girls begin to believe in the false perception that pageantry seems to promote the slogan, “you are never too young to be perfect.”

Perhaps pageantry is a creation of humanity. At times, people create their ideal version of beauty and the difference between pageantry and humanity is that pageantry judges people outwardly while humans do it subconsciously.

Brianna Walker is a Senior Broadcast/ Mass Communications major from Natchez, Mississippi. She will be a contributor to The Campus Chronicle for the 2017-2018 school year.

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