What if I said that I was going to take a four year old little boy to the gym and have him work out (with tiny weights appropriate to his size of course)? What if I then take him to a ritzy tuxedo buying place and have him try on clothes while I sat and critiqued how they looked for hours? What if I then I took him home and only let him eat a very regimented diet designed to get rid of any “baby fat” that he might have left over from his toddler days? What if I then put him in a competition with other little boys to pick out the most handsome, most charming, most physically appealing among them?
Does that sound wrong to you? I really hope so. This is what happens to some children, from the time they are babies to when they are teenagers, mostly girls, their whole lives. I grew up in a tiny little town in the deep south state of Mississippi. Pageants are a thing. Everyone, who is anyone, who has an even remotely “attractive” child, puts them in a pageant at some point. Some girls (and yes it is mostly little girls) are in pageants their entire lives. I was in a pageant. My husband did a ton of pageants as a child. I was never going to be able to do pageants regularly, mostly because I was stubborn and didn’t like having my picture taken or wearing dresses and my parents didn’t push it.
Let us consider for a moment what being allowed or even sometimes made to wear make up, poofy dresses, and perfume will do to a toddler or small child.
We don’t have to think very hard or very long because the consequences of these actions now has a “reality” television show. While Alana or “Honey Boo Boo” is the most recognizable person from this show, Toddlers and Tiaras features a ton of other children that we can look at as examples of what happens when beauty pageants or standards of physical perfection are a regular part of a child’s life.
There are so many negative things that I could focus on here. When writing this article, and part of the reason it took me so long to write, is that there are literally a ton of other people voicing opinions on both sides of the line. The thought I kept coming back to was that what if all of this pressure, all of this emphasis on physique and how well they perform was focused more solely on little boys? Would as many people be ok with it? I don’t really think so. As crazy as it sounds we, as a society, would not place that pressure on little boys. It would not be fun for them. So why would we place that same pressure, that same emphasis on the physical, on little girls? Girls have issues with self esteem their entire lives almost across the board no matter how physically attractive they might be. This beauty pageant, dress me up like a china doll and parade me on stage with a dance routine meant for a grown woman mentality is at the heart of some of that. Obviously it is not the whole problem, but it does play a role.
All of that is great, but what if you don’t have kids? Maybe you think this doesn’t apply to you, but it does. I don’t have children but I influence, positively or negatively at least 30 kids a week. What I can do is that I can focus them away from the physical. I can remind them that it is what is inside that counts. I can show them, with the way I carry myself, with the words that I use to describe myself and other people, that physical beauty is not important. I can be happy with my face and body the way it was made, without make up or a spray tan. If we want to change the way that men and women perceive themselves I firmly believe it starts with children and the way we show them is acceptable to perceive themselves. And now for some comic relief! Click the pic to go to Tom Hank’s spoof on pageants.
What do you think?