Wearing heavy makeup and revealing clothes, giving a so-called sassy walk, followed by a wink and a shimmy, she delivers the biggest smile of her life. Now the million-dollar question: Is she a 25-year-old stripper from Vegas, or believe it or not, a 6-year-old? In such child beauty pageants, toddlers under the age of 16 compete to be crowned for their physical attractiveness. Exemplifying the life of a contestant, the reality show Here comes Honey Boo Boo has ignited controversy of issues such as eating disorders, consequences led by sexualisation, and superficiality. Therefore, child beauty pageants should be banned due to its detrimental effects on the contestants.
In contrast to glamorous look under the spotlight, the hideous truth to the little beauty queens is the harsh physical restriction imposed by their parents. For instance, a former contestant was obliged on a 500-calorie-a-day diet which only provided the sustainable energy due to strict weight limit. Unable to meet a growing kid’s demand for indispensable nutrients, malnutrition and eating disorders are more likely to develop and to impact on a long-term basis. Furthermore, in order to satisfy the beauty standard, tanning beds, hair spray, even Botox injections, whose usage provoke obvious damage on children, are tolerated and applied by parents. Sacrifices are forced to make while parents subject their children in the beauty-priority industry.
Additionally, society relies on parents to be children’s protector and guidance; nevertheless, they have exposed the innocent kids to the dangerous world by putting a glowing bikini on a 3-year-old. For years we've seen adult sexuality being inappropriately and aggressively foisted on innocent young children, but kids today are being sexualized at insanely young ages and used for the purpose of entertainment. The audience of a child beauty pageant might mainly consist of the family of the contestants, there’s no guarantee that potential sexual predators and pedophiles haven’t infiltrated the crowd. While parents make their kids pull off a prostitute costume on stage and imitate Beyoncé’s sexy dance moves, privacy and security are left unprotected, and the friendly-looking man taking pictures in the corner has satisfied his sick interest at no cost.
While parents use restoration of confidence as an excuse for entering their kids in the pageant, in reality, they are not only expecting children to mimic the grownups, but also seeking for fame and financial reward from their children’s achievement, and rewarding them for that. Their irresponsible act plants the message of that external looks can score them attention and prizes in their children’s brains. These little kids have been taught to be ultra-conscious on physical appearance, defining their body perfection as their most important values, as a natural extension of this trend from their parents. Consequently a superficial perception will be formed, which will influence their perspective of life. Parental aspiration impacts on the children, and yet here we’re, pushing them into the high-pressure, appearance-driven altar of the Mr. /Ms. Perfect.
In conclusion, child beauty pageants have exhibited little educational significance for toddlers. By advocating premature recognition of physical beauty, children are misguided to take the risk of physical damage, sexualisation and false perception of essential values. Hence a lack of concentration on their internal selves, which is an aspect being neglected throughout these competitions, will add on more pressure and hinder the progress of a teenager experiencing puberty. As the woman of beauty Audrey Hepburn herself has stated: “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul.” Ban the child beauty pageant, we can save more children from becoming the Honey Boo Boo and teach them what they really need.
Zhenling Wang is a Secondary 4 student at Laurier Macdonald High School in the English Montreal School Board.