RANT: Toddlers and Tiaras

The rainy season came and with it indoor exercise. So I went down to the gym to walk the treadmill.

Right in front of the treadmill are huge TV screens that show a variety of channels. Today, during my exercise, I watched a reality show around underage beauty pageants called ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ on TLC, which is a show about beauty pageants for infants.

I don’t mind (too much) if an adult wishes to enter into a pageant. Although I dislike the vapid nature of pageants where superficial aesthetics are awarded, I can understand why some people need the validation. I can understand pet pageants, where dogs and cats are groomed until sometimes they no longer resemble pets.

I cannot stand these beauty pageants for infants and children. Of course I’d heard of the show and I’d seen flashes of announcements, but I never watched a whole T&T episode.

Apart from dressing up toddlers as adults and teaching them how to ‘seduce’ the panel, the children seemed to be programmed to become self-centered superficial brats. An 8-year old girl was behaving horridly egotistical, smugly announcing that she’d feel bad for the other contestants who would be crying when she’d walk off with the crown. She ended up getting a price for best personality (!) and three other awards, but the ulitmate award went to a 1-year old. She was visibly upset, crying and pouting, and went into a total meltdown in the corridor behind the stage.

And the parents looking at each other with tight plastic smiles hiding the raging hatred. Talking to each other how ‘rude’ some parents were for not having their child on the stage on time, and gnashing their teeth about the injustice of a one-year old winning a 1,000 dollar award.

I look at my three-year old, smearing her face with chocolate and laughing at herself in the mirror and I realise how child abuse can take different forms. Dressing a child up as an adult and proclaiming that they ‘like’ going to these meat market pageants is just as horrific as claiming they ‘like’ to be sexually intimate with adults. These beauty pageants teach children how to behave like adults in order to please adults.

Children have an innate need to please their parents, both because they love them and because children do realise that they are dependent on their caregivers. To abuse that need for affection by parading them on superficial beauty/popularity meat markets is just as despicable as sexual abuse.

Of course the parents who project their vapid ambitions on their children will claim that the children enjoy the pageants, relish the dressing up, and welcome the competition. I won’t deny that. I’m sure they do. But you have to ask yourself ‘why’?

A child needs affection and encouragement. And children have excellent antennae to gauge their parents feelings.

These pageant children relish dressing up. So does my 3-year old daughter. She dresses up like a lion or a horse or a crocodile. Sometimes she dresses up like a princess. It’s a way for children to try out different personae and interact with the world.

The competition is a different aspect. Children are geared towards pleasing their parents and they know they’ll be praised for performance. However, competition has a dark side where sportsmanship is denied and children are encouraged to ‘crush’ the competition. Children crying because a panel didn’t consider them the most beautiful child is a clear signal of rampant egotistical superficiality. Instead of teaching children that happiness is more important than beauty, these children will become self-centered brats for whom adoration equates success. And where the lack of adoration plunges them into deep and dark despair. They’ll be beautiful on the outside, but ugly and twisted inside because their beauty becomes their only currency for affection. And they won’t have the mental development of adults to deal with this ignominy.

And no child welcomes a highly strung competitive ‘beauty pageant’, where they are taught that dressing up provocatively and wiggling their undeveloped bodies for adult strangers will get them parental adoration from ‘caregivers’ who have no idea how grotesque their ambitions truly are.

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7 Comments on “RANT: Toddlers and Tiaras”

  1. Cathy DuPont says:

    Could not agree with you more. Since T&T has been on TLC since 2009, it speaks to your good taste that you’ve just seen it.

    I enjoy watching “Who Do You Think You Are” a program about the genealogy of people in movies, music, etc. On the TLC Facebook page, there are complaints about how the program, which is excellent by the way, is book ended by T&T with comments such as you made above.

    I read and wrote a review on Cinderella Ate My Daughter on Goodreads.com. The subject is how our daughters are pressured by parents and peers to be a “princess” and the “princess phenomena” which is nothing but marketing by Disney. Great book and speaks, in part, to what you wrote in your excellent blog. Sorry that you had to endure the program but with your blog, I hope it was worth it. Five big stars for an excellent observation and putting it into words.

    Great parenting on your part, too, in my opinion.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Cathy, and for the recommendation of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I didn’t have to ‘endure’ the program, since the sound was off and I was listening to my iPod, the music easing my mind every time I saw the parents hovering over the pouting brats stomping around their dressing rooms.

      In a sense I’m lucky to live in the Netherlands, where these underage pageants are not exactly prohibited (like in France), but still deemed as corrupting minors. I think most people who watched T&T over here are watching with bemusement and revulsion rather than enthusiasm.

      Of course there are little girls over here who like to dress up like princesses, but (like I stated in my article) pretending to be someone else in order to play is part of the emotional and mental development of children. Dressing up like a pin-up and shaking your underage body for adults in order to receive adoration for ‘aesthetic’ reasons is perverted. And I don’t use that word often, as I live in a city that’s pretty tolerant towards other cultures and different views.

      The thing is, I don’t consider something perverted if something happens between consenting adults. Even something like age-play, where adults pretend to be babies or toddlers, is acceptable in my view, since anything that happens between consenting adults is their own responsibility.

      Underage beauty pageants are not consensual. Similar to a child’s inability to consent to sexual intimacy with adults, a child cannot consent to be put on display dressed in provocative uniforms intended to titillate. And to me the biggest affront is that the ‘parents’ who drag their children to these pageants seem unaware of their perverted behaviour.

      Underage beauty pageants are child abuse.

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      • Cathy DuPont says:

        I agree with everything you said. Dressing up like they do and posing in a sexually suggestive manner is disgusting and simply wrong for children to do. Agree, it’s child abuse.

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  2. Lummox JR says:

    My wife has seen the show a few times when nothing else was on, and watched mostly just for the train wreck aspect, but the show infuriates both of us. Seems to me like the notion that the T&T pageant moms are horrible parents, and these pageants are deeply ugly, has gone way past the point where it’s mere opinion anymore. We’ve still avoided the execrable spinoff “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”. I still don’t get how a woman who keeps her kid hopped up on energy drink cocktails and encourages her to act obnoxious ends up making the talk show circuit instead of court appearances.

    Like

    • I’m not the type of person to criticize how people raise their children, for two reasons:
      a) I’ve been criticized myself by people who think I was ‘too strict’ when I told a toddler to throw his own banana peel in the bin, so there will always be people who object to how you raise your children,
      b) Most parents think they’re doing an excellent job. I’ve been physically and mentally abused as a child, but if you’d ask my parents they’d conclude that they did fine by me, because, hey, look how I turned out…

      Telling these pageant parents that they’re abusing their children would have no effect whatsoever. They will always try for some justification to enter their children into the pageants: “But my toddler adores these pageants and she loves to dress up and entertain the judges…”
      These people are beyond delusion. Even if these pageants would be forbidden by the government, like they did in France, these parents would probably wonder why anyone would want to ‘interfere with their harmless pageants’.

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  3. I cringe every time I hear about this show. I’ve watched it a few times and I can’t believe the extent that these parents take dolling up their little girls. It is child abuse.

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    • Yesterday there was an episode where a child was dog-tired from having slept only a few hours getting stuffed with Red Bull and Coca-Cola to make sure the child’s eyes were open during the ‘performance’. Maybe Child Services should watch the show?

      Like


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