The Real Cost of Child Beauty Pageants

by DrPrem Jagyasi

Beauty pageants have long been believed to be a trend setting event that many wished that they could be part of. Child beauty pageants are held in some parts of the world, they have become the centre of debate in the recent months not only because of the slew of racial comments hurled at the new Miss America, Nina Davuluri. But all the way over in France, legislators are seeking to have child pageants banned as they feel that it leads to the sexualization of minors.

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Reasons behind this move:

This move also covers clauses where violators-which include parents, organizers and sponsors-, will face jail time. The bill has already been approved by the French Senate, but has yet to be passed by houses of Parliament before it becomes a law. This bill states that children under the age of sixteen are not allowed to participate in such competitions, and people who encourage children to join such competitions can be arrested.

This ban was the direct result of debates that were sparked by a promotional photo spread in 2010 for the “Mini-Miss” beauty pageant for children. This promotional photo spread featured a ten year girl wearing tight clothing, high heels and lots of makeup, pouting in a rather provocative manner towards the camera. Karen Kataline, a mental health expert believes that the problem lies with the parents who choose to encourage the sexualization of the children and not with the pageants. Karen herself used to take part in pageants as a child in the 1960’s; she isn’t against children participating in shows where they sing and dance. She believes that they should perform in age appropriate ways and unfortunately the boundaries have been pushed too far. Some parents choose to put their children in inappropriate displays, and that they need to be enlightened on why exposing their children in ways that are over sexual can harm them and other children.

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Psychological Re-wiring:

The bill as proposed is very strict and includes penalties of up to two years imprisonment and a fine of $40,000 which although extreme, are understandable. According to the American Psychological Association, girls who are sexualized at an early age will develop the concept that self worth is only about how you look. Martina Cartwright, part of the faculty at the University of Arizona, believes that parents who use their child’s accomplishments to get personal gains, quite often at the risk of the child’s well being. In her studies conducted on beauty pageants, she was present at the live tapings of such shows. Here she discovered that some these ‘driven’ parents would deny their kids, some as young as seven and nine, naps and rest as they did not want their makeup and hair to be ruined. Some of these children were even given caffeinated drinks and candy to boost their energy levels so that they could perform better.

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