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Hafsa Durrani 2016-09-0005 Ms.Bushra Butt SS-100 Writing and Communication (Section 1) 15th May 2012 Research Essay: Are child beauty pageants damaging to the physical and mental health of the contesting girls? From casual wear to swimwear to evening gowns and everything in between, child beauty pageants today cover almost all possible frontiers of fashion attires. The pageants are speckled with glitter and a sea of hopeful little girls attired in the flashiest gowns and teased hair. The child pageant scene is not a new phenomenon, the first ever child beauty pageant was the Little Miss America pageant held in New Jersey in 1960. Initially child pageants were forms of wholesome family entertainment, as little girls with ribbons in their hair displayed their talents of singing or baton-twirling. Since then this industry has grown into a lucrative business bringing in about a billion dollars a year (Witt). In the USA there are around 3000 pageants attended by more than 100,000 children a year (Rich). The nature of the contests has evolved too and now they are treated more as platforms for the marketing of the participating young girls. As beauty pageants become more commercialized they risk turning the young participants into packaged Barbie Dolls embodying the ideal notion of femininity. In that process the contesting girls may mature beyond their age in matters pertaining to body image and self-worth. The prevailing pageantry customs encourage the unknowing girls to step into the world of spray-on tans, halter tops, all-protein diets etc. The interesting part is the reaction of the girls to the early exposure to
The fierce spotlight highlighting the importance of beauty instills in the minds of the young girls the image that physical beauty and superficial charm are the keys to success. The first issue faced by many of the contestants of child beauty pageants when they grow up is that of body dissatisfaction. Beauty contests primarily judge the contestants on their physical appearance and how well the girls present themselves on the stage. the parents of the contestants claim that their daughters willfully take part in the pageants and that the pageants are vital developmental experiences.” Whether they can separate themselves from pageant life or not? Although. Eleven of them were former child beauty pageant contestants and were compared to the other eleven who had not participated in such contests. The two groups of women were matched on their age and current Body Mass Index (BMI). Diann M. But the ones who are unable to achieve the ideal body may “exhibit negative affect and feelings of body dissatisfaction” (Stice).Henderson who recruited twenty two women for the study. And struggles with perfection can take their toll in adulthood. The study was authored by Anna L. The girls embark on the relentless pursuit of attaining this mythical perfect body image. however.Durrani 2 matters usually regarded to fall under the realm of “adulthood. So as they “retire” from the pageantry scene it is common to see issues of body image and self worth creep up in their teen years.The findings of the study revealed that the eleven women who had participated in pageants as children scored significantly higher on . In fact a recent study was conducted in 2005 to evaluate the association of childhood beauty pageants and adult body dissatisfaction. child beauty pageants are damaging to the young girls as they contribute to the girls falling victims to issues of adult body dissatisfaction.Ackard and Judith B.Wonderlich. For guidance and preparation these girls turn to media such as magazines which are submerged in thin promotion campaigns. eating disorders and may become targets of pedophiles.
And despite having similar BMI. The degrading notions are subtly engraved into the minds of the girls who then grew up with distorted images of what beauty is and began to feel dissatisfied with their current bodies as they felt that they had lost what they perceived to be.4) and ineffectiveness (6. The correlation between participation in childhood beauty pageants and having adult body dissatisfaction was explained by that the fact that the women who scored higher had been exposed to media icons that represent the “thin female ideals” (Wonderlich. The beauty pageants pit little girls against one another in a variety of “talent” show casing divisions which basically involve the girls model different custom fitted themed outfits in front of the judges. Ackard.1 respectively). Henderson). the women who had participated in beauty pageants saw their “current figure as larger” and had a stronger desire to be thinner (7. participation in beauty driven pageants at such a tender age has in cases resulted in the girls developing eating disorders in their teen or adult years. Ackard Henderson 297) especially if one girl gets more attention than the others.Durrani 3 body dissatisfaction (19. Social comparisons such as those based on physical appearances can foster feelings of insecurity (Wonderlich.8) (Wonderlich. “the most important aspect” of who they were (Giroux 44).1) than those who had not participated (12 and 2. Secondly. Feelings of insecurity result not only because a girl thinks another is . The study also showed that women who were former contestants scored higher on the scale measuring depression symptoms and low on self-esteem. The competitiveness of the girls manifests itself into a habit of constantly comparing themselves to the other contestants in order to improve and avoid making mistakes of the other girls.6) than the females who had not taken part in beauty pageants (4. To win requires the girls to out shine all the others in looks and beauty which means that all of them face intense competition. Henderson 297) and notions of beauty which are “one dimensional and demeaning” (Giroux 42). Ackard.
On being asked what about winning do they enjoy a seven year old contestant answered.H Thompson conducted a survey. Ackard.5% of them wanted to be thinner and 57% were trying to lose weight” and that 26% had eating disorders which had begun at an average age of 16.Durrani 4 better than her but also because she herself does not “represent the thin ideal” (Wonderlich. If the girls feel guilt for having eaten too much they cleanse their bodies by making themselves vomit or use laxatives (Article Doctor). Since the pageants’ judging criteria is centered on the physical appearance and adorned attires of the young contestants. In 2003 S. the girls are programmed to think that parental/adult approval is somehow tied with how perfect they look hence they grow up struggling with the ambition to achieve and maintain that image and can subject themselves to self-destructing means to attain the goal. a proud . to find that “48.25 (Thompson. But as the years go by the means employed get worse. the parents of the contesting girls say that their daughters enter the pageants voluntarily because they want to. over 43 states of America in which former child beauty pageant contestants (mean age 26 years at time of survey) were interviewed. However. And when they grow up many of them still continue on with such efforts. This increases the pressure to be the thin ideal and makes the girls follow absurd dietary regimes as they become very conscious of what they eat. The parents do not see anything wrong with how the pageants are molding the priorities of their children as long as the girls want to actively be part of the pageants. The parents who participate in these pageants respond to critics by arguing that their daughters ask to be in such contests and that they enjoy winning. the parents stay pacified. Hammond). Joy Richardson. Henderson 297) and she feels that she has failed. “Because I get the trophy!” (Levey 324). They argue that pageantry is what makes their daughters happy and so they perceive the pageants as nothing more than a fun after school activity and it is completely up to the girls if they want to be part of the pageant or not.
in Inbar). But this presumed autonomy of the girls fails to hold true when girls as young as eight months old are entered into pageants by their eager parents. Their own desire to succeed is the driving force that keeps the girls in the contests. They think that they are doing all of that for their daughter but their actions and methods lead to detrimental effects for their daughters. trainers. The parents drive them across states to compete in local and national pageants. The second reason for why parents defend pageants is that it helps to shape and develop . “If she says she’s done. They invest in a lot of money for the dresses. then we’ll be done” (qtd. reported to have seen parents “who have pinched their children for messing up their dress or not looking appropriate… or not throwing kisses” (qtd. The fervent parents are willing to let their daughters skip school and stay away from other childhood activities.Durrani 5 mother of a beauty pageant contestant Allie. Lois Miller. in Giroux 42-43). The parents get more caught up in all the glitz and glamour and the competitive world of pageantry and may resort to “mentally punitive and physically cruel” (Giroux 42) measures to punish their daughters for making mistakes. hence they become extensively involved in the preparations of making their daughters ready for the stage. For the most parts it seems that the parents try to fulfill their own childhood dreams or some road not taken and they live it through their daughters. Also the parents who claim that pageantry is just an extracurricular activity are usually the ones who exert the most pressure on their daughters to win (Levey 2002) and as it turns out they happen to be more involved in the process than they claim to be or more than what may even be required. said that her daughter developed enthusiasm for pageantry after watching Miss America pageant and that. A talent manager. make-up and props. all for the sake of winning. Such attitudes and reactions from parents may be a result of the parents’ fear that if their children do not “end up as one of the few winners they will join the ranks of the many losers” (Harris).
she was really shy… I wanted her to develop her own type of personality. and sex appeal. in Inbar). she said.Durrani 6 the personality of their child. Phyllis Jones of Garland. So instead of accepting themselves for who they are.” (qtd. Texas. But what the parents tend to overlook is how narrowly they are defining the concepts of “confidence” and “self-esteem. This in effect means that the girls would regard self worth in relation to physical objectification of themselves and others. The parents say that their girls are groomed in the pageantry process as they gain talent and poise. They find that the competitive nature of the pageants teach important life lessons of discipline to their girls.” In this context self-esteem would imply “embracing rather than critically challenging a gender code that rewards little girls for their looks. said in an interview on TODAY that pageants helped her daughter Meaghan cope with public interactions. They specifically think that since the child is put under the spotlight to show case her talents it helps in boosting her confidence and self-esteem. child beauty pageants can prove to attract unwanted attention from pedophiles . submissiveness. Hence. The interaction with other children of her age will also make her more social. “When she [Meaghan] was young. The most common message which the girls take home from these pageants is that there is a standardized image of beauty that only “one of forty thousand young women will actually meet” (Giroux 41). the girls relentlessly struggle to achieve perfection in order to be satisfied with what they have.” (Giroux 41). The parents are oblivious to the actual lessons which pageantry teaches the girls. They view the pageants as an opportunity for their daughters to have a positive social experience. Lastly. The dominating and decisive role of the parents and pageants in the girls’ lives enable the engraving of that standardized beauty into their minds. They also laud the pageants for being a forum which helped boost their child’s self-esteem. they try to embody other people’s perception of beauty.
young innocent girls are adorned with heavy makeup like Christmas trees and are paraded around in provocative dresses in front of the public “in a manner that suggests a sexuality well beyond their years” (Giroux 40). JonBenet’s story serves as a testament to the fact that child beauty pageants are like a dream come true for pedophiles. In these pageants. And it is precisely the sexual manner of those performances that provide the sexual baits for the creation . with her bleached blond curly hair and big blue eyes.” (Youtube) within the girls. JonBenet. epitomized the “ideal” pageant girl mentioned of earlier. an American journalist. The pageants serve the girls up in a platter for the viewing pleasure of child molesters. “appearance of sexual-readiness. The body hugging outfits and provocative dance movements can be sending the wrong message out to the public. placing the girls’ lives and health at risk. Instead they have furthered their own profit oriented goals by marketing the “young girls in the image of adult drives and desires. After her murder. A recent example of child pageantry crossing paths with pedophilia is the tragic case of JonBenet Ramsey.Durrani 7 targeting young girls. a renowned hypnotherapist. as “borders on kiddie porn.” (Giroux 40).” (qtd. She was a six-year old American beauty pageant contestant who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her parent’s basement in December 1996 (Hickey). says that the way that the talent or dance routines are carried out on stage. The media’s constant airing of her runway tapes was criticized by Dan Rather. Sexualized images of young girls can have dangerous implications in a world where there are sexual predators lurking everywhere. Dr Nancy Irwin. And which is further incorrectly interpreted as an invitation by perverted predators. can be misconstrued by viewers as. in Rich). news channels were flooded with videos of her walking in her “off-the-shoulder-dresses…seductively across…a runway” (Giroux 37). Even after JonBenet’s death the beauty pageant industry did not slow down or take any initiative to mitigate the sexual overtones of the girls’ performances.
across the stage. Richard Goldstein said. “Only in a culture that represses the evidence of the senses could child pageantry grow into a $5 billion . in their elaborately sexualized dance routines. The perception of a harmless child talent contest has been greatly destructed over the years whose victims are the defenseless girls who are not mature enough to even fully comprehend the risks they sign up for. but these beauty pageants do put girls in situations which make them more vulnerable to potential attacks by child molesters.Durrani 8 of “images and representations that tread close to the border of pornography. Admittedly. “situational offenders…that means some people would not ordinarily take the bait but they will if it’s constantly thrust in their face. JonBenet’s case should have served as a wakeup call for both pageant heads and the parents but they simply brushed it off and responded by blaming the media to have aggrandized the situation out of hand. Little girls need protection from the evils of this world especially the kinds which cleverly disguise themselves from detection. “These young girls are constructed as sexual subjects.” (Robinson. by participating. majority of child beauty pageant contestants struggle with problems of body and beauty as they grow up. But placing them in front of cameras for the world to see as they dance and sing is not a smart move on the parents’ behalf. The innocence that was once associated with child beauty pageants has been lost under mountain high layers of make-up and hair extensions used to decorate the girls while they showcase their ability to move suggestively.” (Giroux 47). not every contestant will have a tragic end like that of JonBenet. Exposing a tender and impressionable mind to overtly superficial ideas of perfection and beauty is sure to adversely affect the young child which is why as discussed above. Dr Irwin also suggests that what parents and pageant organizers don’t realize is that they are also giving rise to.” (Youtube). Davies) which incite the perverted minds to pursue their deviant sexual desires and attack these helpless girls.
This is a weighty statement criticizing the absurdity behind the very thought of a six year old or younger girl being taught coquettish mannerisms. but in that process they risk the girls’ physical safety and mental well being. Only in a nation of promiscuous puritans could it be a good career move to equip a six-year-old with bedroom eyes.Durrani 9 dollar industry without anyone noticing. Child beauty pageants are not healthy forms of competition for young girls because all they do is assert absurd ideals of how beauty achieves success: in order to win a trophy or a title all a girl has to do is flutter fake eyelashes and pout her lips for photographs. but that is precisely what beauty pageants succeed in doing.” (qtd in Giroux 1). .
Hilary. ." TODAY.pageants--short-stories-on-eating-disorders-and-beauty-pageants-2150>. 2012. Hilar. Rich. Bingley [UK: Emrald Group Limited. Web. Kerry H. 01 Mar.jstor.-May 2012.cnn. <http://today. "Trophies. 2009. 2010.articledoctor. Giroux. "Let Me Entertain You. Vol. Levey. Print." Social Text 57 (1998): 31-53. Apr. Thousand Oaks.com/1997/01/18/opinion/let-me-entertain-you.nytimes. THAT'S WHAT SHE'S DOING!" Australian Feminist Studies 23. "Parents Defend Putting Their Kids in Beauty Pageants.com/id/28873086/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/parentsdefend-putting-their-kids-beauty-pageants/>. 1997." Sociological Studies of Children and Youth. Harvard University.html?src=pm>.57 (2008): 343-58. 319-49. Robinson. Michael.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1997/03/01/222975/in dex. Inbar. "TROPHY KIDS A NEW ALL-OR-NOTHING PHILOSOPHY IS FORCING YOUR CHILDREN TO COMPETE AGAINST TODAY'S. Web. CA: Sage. and Cristyn Davies. 13.com/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-and-beauty.. (2002). <http://money. Cambridge.com.msnbc. 1997. Web. 27 Jan. Eric W. 2012. <http://www.Web. "SHE'S KICKIN’ ASS. Apr. Henry A. 2007. Print. Apr. 18 Jan. 2012.Durrani 10 Works Cited "Article Doctor . Crowning achievements: Why mothers and daughters participate in child beauty pageants.org/stable/466880> Harris. Marlys." CNNMoney. 2012. Hickey. Encyclopedia of Murder & Violent Crime.htm>. "Nymphet Fantasies: Child Beauty Pageants and the Politics of Innocence." Eating Disorders And Beauty Pageants. Cable News Network. MA. <http://www. Levey. <http://www. Print. Unpublished undergraduate thesis. Duke University Press. Apr. The New York Times. Apr. Triumphs and Tears: Children's Experinces with Competitve Activities.msn.Health and Fitness Articles. Frank. Web." The New York Times.
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