Saturday, May 3, 2014

Child Beauty Pageant

Today I'd like to talk about a subject that makes me both angry and sad: child beauty pageants. A child beauty pageant is a little girl who's raised to be in beauty competitions. She's brought up with the internalized ideas that her achievement in life is to have a great figure, a beautiful face, and generally be as beautiful as can be because it leads to success. So, from the age of 5 these little girls paint their nails, wear contacts, dye their hair, even have plastic surgery to look better. In other words, they've internalized the idea that their beauty is everything and are ready to do anything to improve it or to keep it.

Now, these little girls weren't born that way. Their mums, most of the times, raised them like that. Instead of whispering the usual kind words other kids get to hear, they put in their daughter's minds the idea that their only way to be happy is to be successful, and for them to be successful means to be the prettiest of them all, because then they'll be winners. And these mums are not afraid to say it! Oh no! They're proud to raise winners! Well, when I see them, and I see their daughters, the only thing I want to do is cry, at their lost childhood trying to please a mother whose only aspiration in life is her daughter's success.

So, basically what you see is mothers, whose faces are completely transformed, be it by plastic surgery, make-up, or even their mimics, and whose self-proclaimed wisdom is to perpetuate their non-self-confidence on their daughters by preventing them to ever feel ashamed of themselves by making them as beautiful as can be. They spend fortunes on transforming their little daughters and making them believe that yes, they're beautiful and making them self-confident, but only to some extent, since they're also teaching them that natural is not enough, i.e. that they're not enough. How can one be self-confident and live a happy life when he/she starts it by transforming his/herself? Do these girls really start their life in a positive way, like their mothers think? And where is the child's choice? Isn't it a way for these mums to finally achieve something, by way of their daughters, without taking their children into consideration in the aftermath?

Another thing that I came to see when doing my research for this article, was how much these children have to work. They are constantly training, talking about beauty things, reading magazines, seeing stars, smiling, putting make-up on, fake tanning, changing their hair, learning to catwalk, to dance, to talk properly, etc. These might seem easy or fancy things to do, but isn't a child supposed to play? Okay, I do agree that a child's job is to learn some things at school and do their homework, but I thought that the beauty of being a child was to be free and careless, and basically just happy. While those kids have everything they could dream off, they're being pushed all the time to do or be more. But to what extent do they really want that? Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don't. And when they don't, what happens, is that the mothers feel offended! Sure! They've put all their hopes, money and energy in their child, how could he/she dare not care and not get the importance of his/her training?!

The mothers and daughters entertain very peculiar relationships, to a point where one could argue if they're sane. Because if mothers live their dreams through their daughters, then, imagine how much pressure these girls have on their shoulders. They know that they're expected to win, that their mothers have invested in them, and that now it's their turn to give something back, by winning. In many cases, these competitions arise high hopes for people who don't have much and see this competition as a way out of their misery, which only puts even more weight on these little girls shoulders. But as only one will get the prize in the end, all the other families will have spent lots of money for nothing, all their hopes torn appart, with their little girls feeling bad for not being good enough, or pretty enough. In other words, feeling unhappy and ashamed.

The worst part is that I truly believe that these mothers intend well, they want to give everything they can so that their daughters achieve all that they would have wanted. But I also believe that they overreact to their own lives, and instead of giving an incredible opportunity to these kids, they're teaching them things that might lead them to some sort of success, but at what cost? Will these girls feel good when growing up and becoming women? I don't think so.. These are the ones that will have complexes and will more easily resort to plastic surgery so that they can "fix" themselves. They won't have self-confidence about anything except for their looks, if they have any, and that until they gain a few pounds, or a few wrinkles. They will feel lost, and unhappy, even having all they ever wanted, be it money, beauty, success, huge houses, etc. And isn't that sad? These mothers might mean well, but in the end I think they're sacrificing their children's lives to recover from the insecurities they themselves have, and end up perpetuating the same insecurities they so don't want their daughters to feel to them anyway.

And even worse in this sad story? That this is a business to which we participate.. Now isn't that a shame... France has banned these beauty competitions for children because it was seen as a form of overt sexualization of children. What if France wasn't overreacting? What if it child beauty pageant  is dangerous for these children, for the children who see them, for men and boys who see them, for society and how it sees little girls and women?

Here is part 1 of a BBC documentary on Child Beauty Pageant divided in 6 parts, which goes around the lives of little girls whose dream is to become beauty queens:

If you want a quick read, here's a short article on how much these competitions affect children in their development:

And another article about how these beauty competitions evolved in time, going from little children being well-dressed to little girls in bikinis mimicking grown up women:

A last article on whether child beauty pageants should be banned in the USA, and some sort of debate with the pros and cons:

There's a great movie, Little Miss Sunshine, which amongst other subjects that mainly revolve around the difficult path of success, and how feeling unsuccessful ruins lives, also treats about a little girl, that doesn't fit for beauty competitions for children but still wants to compete in such a competition, and all the story around this family's life. I really encourage you to watch it! I'll probably make a review about this movie sometime!

And finally Beyoncé's video clip of the song Pretty Hurts, which relates to the experience of living for beauty competitions:

Have a great day, and keep your mind sharp!

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